A labor union official said that the increase in flight cancellations due to the spread of the coronavirus has resulted in hundreds of contract workers getting laid off at Philadelphia International Airport.
A group of workers has received layoff notices and it is expected that 600 to 1,000 employees will be laid off through Monday according, Gabe Morgan of Local 32BJ of Service Employees International Union said.
The union represents 1,400 subcontracted workers such as wheelchair attendants, baggage handlers and cabin cleaners at the airport. Morgan said the layoff is expected to affect between 50 and 80 percent of all those workers.
According to the union official, the most vulnerable group of workers are getting the worst of the current situation.”They are attempting to push whatever problem they are having onto the lowest-paid people. And these are folks who can’t afford to miss a week of pay.”
The largest number of workers are employed by American Airlines subcontractors PrimeFlight Aviation and Prospect Airport Services.
Prospect Airport Services Inc. said that layoffs will begin on Sunday. The company said in a statement that demand for its services at the airport has dropped as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but hoped the layoffs would be temporary.
Morgan is demanding the intervention of municipal and federal officials so that contracted workers are included in any government funding to help airlines and in this way secure their jobs.
At the moment, the union is helping people quickly file for unemployment, but according to Morgan that could take weeks.
He said there are union food service workers and non-union contract workers at the airport who can also be affected by layoffs, but he did not know how many or if the food service union had received any notices.