Virgin Australia says the end of JobKeeper in March could signal a mass shedding of workers if no further support is provided to the struggling aviation industry.
The major airline, which has been financially crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, predicts thousands of jobs are at risk if the federal government cuts assistance to an industry that is unable to recover while border restrictions halt travel.
Across the Virgin group, approximately 6600 workers are being supported by JobKeeper payments, with the majority of staff still stood down while travel numbers remain low.
Virgin Australia chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said it would not be viable for the airline to operate if the financial lifeline were to be axed next month.
“Without a way to keep these critical employees connected, it is not financially viable for us as a business and them as people as they seek to manage their own living expenses,” Ms Hrdlicka said.
“The aviation industry risks being materially delayed in its recovery and forced to downsize while demand is depressed and then rehire and retrain when it ramps up. The implications for the economy will be significant. The consequences with respect to fares and accessibility for people in the regions will also be felt.”
Virgin has shed more than 3000 jobs since the beginning of the downturn, while rival airline Qantas has culled more than 9000 roles as part of its restructure to meet the needs of a scaled-back aviation industry.
Ms Hrdlicka was appointed top boss at Virgin by private equity firm Bain Capital, which acquired the company following its financial collapse in March last year.
She noted the airline’s ability to operate will rest on the pandemic’s timeline and if impacted industries such as aviation and tourism would have access to further support.
“Post JobKeeper, the aviation industry will continue to need some form of support that will enable our technically trained work groups, including pilots, cabin crew, ground crew, engineers and operations control centre employees, to remain connected to the business even if working limited or no hours,” Mr Hrdlicka said.
“Without that it is impossible for us to stand back up and support the country as it opens up and to take advantages of those moments where we can be free and back to normal.”