Unlike the newly started capacity wars in Italy and Norway, the war between Wizz Air and its unions has been going on for quite some time. While workers unionized to ensure their basic rights are respected, others were relegated to work via a subcontractor, employed by the low-cost carrier.
In March 2020, as the coronavirus-related lockdowns ensued, airlines were forced to halt their operations at a moment’s notice. At first, confusion and hope of returning to a sense of normality sooner than later were still relevant. The following weeks could be universally described as coming to terms with the situation and the slow realization that the aviation industry will not recover anytime soon.
Unfortunately, job cuts followed, as airlines had to cut costs to ensure their liquidity. Some airlines were better positioned to navigate the turbulent times, some had worse starting positions. Wizz Air was one of the few airlines, especially in Europe, with a very strong cash position. Nevertheless, people were let go from the airline, much like everywhere around the world. Over 1,000 employees, or 19% of its total workforce at the time, lost jobs at the low-cost carrier.
“A climate of fear with Wizz for all its remaining crews, not just those on sub-contractor contracts,” a still-employed Wizz Air pilot, who wished to remain anonymous, told AeroTime News. AeroTime has looked at how the current situation at the airline, and its previous trouble with unions, is affecting its employees.
The seasonal nature in Europe has started to show its effects on flight activity all throughout the continent. According to data presented by Eamonn Brennan, director-general of EUROCONTROL, the second week of October saw fewer than 100,000 flights – the first time this has happened since mid-July 2020.
“People have currently three choices for the winter period, go on unpaid leave, move to another base, or work part-time, as the number of aircraft operating will be reduced by 50 over winter. That will result in an excess of 1000 Cabin Crew and 400 Pilots,” he added.
Nevertheless, Wizz Air has expanded in the current environment. The same week that EUROCONTROL, Europe’s air traffic management organization, saw fewer than 100,000 flights, the airline announced its planned expansion into Norway with the newest Oslo Gardermoen Airport (OSL) base.
Immediately after, Norway-based unions expressed their concerns about the newest player in the market. European Transport Workers‘ Federation (ETF)’s head of Aviation, Eoin Coates was blunter regarding Wizz Air’s newest venture: “They use every way they can to ensure free movement, and use all the dirty tricks in the book. They abuse employees all over Europe.”
One dirty trick from the book could be traced back to 2014 in Romania when unionized employees were met with a very negative reaction from the airline.
At that time, 19 employees were fired from the low-cost carrier after they established Sindicatul Aerolimit Professional (SAP), a union in Romania in July 2014. In October of the same year, the then-dismissed employees informed Wizz Air that the union was established. At the end of the same month, the company informed that 19 flight attendant positions would be restructured at the base where Aerolimit Professional was established, according to the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) in Romania.