COVID-19 puts Airports Vanuatu jobs in jeopardy

Airports Vanuatu Limited is looking at reducing its workforce as the company struggles financially under ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Airports Vanuatu’s Chief Executive Officer, Jason Rakau, says the state-owned enterprise has been hard hit by COVID-19.

Mr Rakau says it is now difficult for the company to continue employing its more than 200 workers.

He says the company has already been forced to take some hard decisions to allow it to survive the impacts of the pandemic, but further cost savings may be necessary.

“As an airport authority in Vanuatu, the company relies on the revenue brought in by air travel and air traffic,” Mr Rakau said.

He says “90 per cent of the company’s revenue” is collected from flights arriving and departing the county.

Mr Rakau says since March of 2020, when the COVID-19 crisis began to impact Vanuatu, border restrictions have been imposed, stopping international travel and also affecting domestic travel.

He says, “Back then, the first thing we did was to halt all our major projects and reserve our capital to maintain the company’s operations.”

“We cut down on our operations to reduce our costs, including by stopping night operations and allowing only day-time operations.

“We have reduced other costs such as those associated with utilities at the international terminal like water and electricity.

“We have also directed some staff to take any outstanding leave and around 40 per cent of our staff have had their work hours cut.”

Airports Vanuatu has not said how many staff positions would need to be cut to keep the company afloat and has not announced the timing it is considering for any possible shedding of staff.

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