Small group of Southwest workers receive warnings of first-ever furloughs

FILE PHOTO: Southwest Airlines planes are seen at LAX airport in Los Angeles, California, United States, October 22, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Southwest Airlines LUV.N said on Friday it has sent furlough notices to 42 parts inventory workers after the union representing them refused to discuss pay cuts the airline argues it needs from all employees to offset $1 billion in overstaffing costs.

The furloughs, the first in the low-cost carrier’s 49-year history, would take place in January unless Washington passes “a satisfactory” extension of a payroll support program for airlines, Southwest said.

An initial $25 billion in federal payroll support for airline workers expired in September, prompting tens of thousands of furloughs across the industry after lawmakers failed to agree another COVID-19 relief deal before the Nov. 3 U.S. election.

Southwest remains in talks over cost-savings with representatives of other union groups, it said.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications, or WARN notices, were sent on Friday to 42 workers represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).

The Teamsters did not immediately comment.

“This is not the result we hoped to achieve,” Southwest Vice President of Labor Relations Russell McCrady said in an emailed statement, adding that the door remains open for negotiations with the union to save the affected jobs.

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