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ILO: Airline Layoffs May Spread to Other Areas of World Labor Market - 2002-01-18


The International Labor Organization (ILO) is hosting a week-long conference, starting Monday, on how to resolve the worldwide crisis of the airline industry. The Geneva-based ILO fears that layoffs among airline staff are likely to spread to other areas of the labor market.

Government officials and representatives from major airlines and air transportation workers unions gathering in Geneva next week will be discussing ways to end the crisis that has racked the world air travel industry because of economic recession and the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Aviation officials has said the terrorist attacks dealt the airline industry the worst blow it has ever experienced. It is feared that some 200,000 people - out of four-million employed in the air transportation industry - could lose their jobs.

ILO spokesman John Doohan worries that the problems could be spreading.

"This is coming at a time of great turmoil, a time when companies, for example, in the United States, have reported their worst results ever in the history of civil aviation, at a time when the crisis seems to be spreading," Mr. Doohan said.

Major international air carriers, like Swissair and Sabena, are out of business due to severe financial difficulties. Others, like American Airlines, Northwest Airlines and U.S. Airways, are reporting heavy losses.

Mr. Doohan has said that, while the airlines are trying to regain passenger confidence, companies and their workers face uncertainty.

"An increasing number of airlines around the world will find themselves in financial difficulties. Some will be forced to change their operations, to reduce their operations. Some may be liquidated. Some may be forced to be restructured," he said.

Air industry experts differ about when a turnaround in fortunes can be expected. Some low-cost air carriers are surviving well, and even growing in the current climate. But the experts say these are exceptions.

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