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United Offering Employees New Buyout Packages

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Just weeks after bringing back thousands of employees who were furloughed last year, United Airlines is now offering a new set of incentives to convince workers to take a buyout package and leave the company.

The Chicago-based carrier is finding that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are still cutting a wide swath into the travel industry, with airline capacity still under 50 percent compared to what it was in 2019. And United is also finding, like American Airlines has found out, that despite two federal government relief packages it simply does not have enough work for all the employees it has hired back.

So, according to a memo seen by Reuters, United is looking to reduce headcount and cut costs as it awaits a rebound in pandemic-hit travel demand. The offers to employees included pay and health benefits for a certain amount of time in exchange for a voluntary leave, part of an effort to cut about $2 billion of annual costs through 2023,

Asked about the offering, a United spokeswoman said: “Given the continued, near-term variations in travel demand, we’ll look for new ways to give our employees flexibility by introducing voluntary options that help reduce costs and may reduce the number of furloughs of recalled employees.”

United furloughed around 13,000 employees last October after the stipulations against layoffs included in the first stimulus package expired. It brought back those workers late in December following another round of relief, but warned the recall could be “temporary.”

The new voluntary programs include different options focused on pay or health benefits. Each is tailored by age and years of service, according to the memo.

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