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JetBlue, pilots union reach deal to avoid involuntary furloughs until May 2021: memo

FILE PHOTO: A Jet Blue airplane is seen at Los Angeles International airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) - JetBlue Airways Corp JBLU.O and a labor union representing pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), have reached an agreement to avoid involuntary furloughs until May 1, 2021, according to a memo sent to pilots on Wednesday.

JetBlue’s Master Executive Council (MEC) of the APLA voted to approve the letter of agreement that “protects all JetBlue pilots from involuntary furloughs — under any circumstances — until May 1, 2021,” the union memo said.

The memo did not provide further details about the agreement.

“After thorough and productive discussions, the ALPA JetBlue pilots were able to secure strong pilot furlough protections in this agreement,” the ALPA told Reuters in a statement.

The airline is set to receive $936 million in government payroll assistance, which bans companies from reducing their workforce until Sept. 30.

Airlines have been hit hard due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with American Airlines AAL.O and other U.S. carriers warning of furloughs in October, when the government payroll aid program for airlines expires.

Under the CARES Act that gave the U.S. aviation sector a $32-billion bailout to cover payroll, airlines cannot force any involuntary furloughs before October. Major unions have asked the U.S. Congress to consider extending the package through March 31.

Rival Delta Air Lines Inc DAL.N said last week it will soon send warning notices to about 2,500 pilots regarding possible furloughs at the airline.

American Airlines Group Inc AAL.O said in an employee town hall meeting last week that avoiding furloughs will be difficult and the U.S. airline expects to have between 10% and 20% more workers than needed in July 2021.

Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; editing by Uttaresh.V

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