Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah says he regrets not providing certainty to employees the airline stood down for months – many of them without pay – by making them redundant sooner.

Scurrah said in an interview at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit that if he had his time again: “I probably would have got to them (redundancies) quicker.

“Uncertainty is a major cause of stress and anxiety and I think we felt we were trying to preserve hope (for staff) but I think we took too long to get to the point of execution.

“You know, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Every leader in our sector had many balls in the air but if I could do anything differently it would to give (staff) that certainty.”

On 25 March Virgin Australia cuts its flying capacity from 50 per cent to 90 per cent, including the suspension of all Tigerair Australia services, and stood down 8000 of its then 10,000 staff. 

At the time, Scurrah said: ““I am only too aware of how much our people are hurting at the moment and these very tough decisions have weighed heavily on me and my leadership team.

“We are talking to our teams and we are working hard to do what we can to protect jobs and extend payments for as long as possible.

“During the stand down, team members will be able to access accrued leave entitlements, but for many team members, leave without pay will be inevitable.”

The airline went into administration limbo on April 21 and announced that 3000 staff would be made redundant on August 6 – more than four months after they were stood down.  

Meanwhile Susan Wheeldon from Airbnb Australia (pictured right) said cutting 25% of staff in early May – part of a global layoff of 1900 employees – was  made easier by clear communication from co-Founder Brian Chesky, who in the past has been criticised, by hosts in particular, for making key decisions without consultation.

Most infamously, the announcement in March that Airbnb would give consumers full refunds on their bookings, rendering all existing cancellation policies meaningless.

Hosts, already struggling under the pressures of COVID, were blindsided and in many cases angry.

It’s clear Chesky learned from that mistake which was partially rectified a few weeks later when Airbnb said it would  reimburse hosts 25% of what they normally receive from cancellations.

In announcing the redundancies, Chesky was open from the start, an approach which won plaudits and was in contrast to poor practice from many other businesses.

Wheeldon commented: “These were incredibly tough decisions and so we wanted to make sure we gave people the best possible path through that.

“On a local level it’s about making sure that those people who were impacted that we were in regular contact with them to help them transition to their next step.”

She adds former alumni will have first shot at jobs when the company starts rebuilding though she did not elaborate on when that might occur.

In terms of long-term planning, says that went “out the window” early in COVID.

“Then it was about moving into what I’m calling the ‘new normal’ where we’re planning literally on a week to week basis as things change and move.”



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