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Saskatoon airport lays off workers due to ‘devastating’ COVID-19 impact

Saskatoon airport lays off workers due to ‘devastating’ COVID-19 impact
WATCH: Skyxe Saskatoon Airport has reduced its workforce by 15 per cent while scaling back operating and capital spending.

Skyxe Saskatoon Airport is making layoffs and spending cuts in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a steep drop in air travel.

In an email to Global News, the organization’s chief financial officer cited a “devastating financial impact on the organization.”

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“As the result of COVID-19, Skyxe Saskatoon Airport has experienced an unprecedented decline in passenger traffic averaging more than 95 per cent from 2019 levels,” said Nick Purich, who is also the airport’s vice-president, corporate administration.

A total of 1.49-million passengers went through the airport in 2019. Officials don’t expect traffic volumes to return to 2019 levels within the next three years.

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As a result, the airport has reduced its organization size by about 15 per cent through a combination of layoffs and voluntary retirements.

READ MORE: Saskatoon International Airport records 2nd busiest year

“This decision was necessary to preserve the long-term viability of Skyxe and its ability to serve the travelling public,” Purich said.

Prior to any retirements or layoffs, the airport employed 40 people. Purich declined to comment on specific affected departments but said “most areas” of the organization were impacted.

Four employees received layoff notices Monday, according to the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE), which represents Saskatoon airport workers.

“There’s one position from the airfield, there’s somebody from building maintenance, somebody from finance and somebody from the pass office,” said Mike Tennant, regional vice-president of UCTE.

READ MORE: Edmonton International Airport lays off 40% of workers as passenger traffic drops by 95%

Skyxe’s CFO said the layoffs are permanent and a hiring freeze is now in effect with no projected end date, which concerns Tennant.

“That’s a person, an individual, a human being losing their livelihood,” Tennant said.

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“But what (the airport is) telling us is that this is what they need to do to survive, so we can just try to work with them, try to minimize the impact on the members.”

The airport has also “aggressively” reduced its operating expenses, including contracted services. Purich said contracted work includes parking and ground transportation support, some security and information desk personnel and maintenance workers.

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It’s not clear how many contract workers may have lost their jobs, but Purich said contract services have reduced by 75 per cent due to COVID-19.

Capital spending is also being scaled back by about 80 per cent from what was initially planned for 2020. Planned work included apron and taxiways, along with additional aircraft overnight parking.

“We reduced our capital budget to only projects that were in progress when the pandemic hit and were substantially underway or absolutely critical for safety and security,” Purich explained.

The airport completed two significant projects in 2019: the replacement of its baggage system and the redesign and redevelopment of its check-in hall.

What to expect when visiting the Saskatoon airport
What to expect when visiting the Saskatoon airport

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.