Thursday, 4 February 2021

Pay the £10.5 million you owe UK staff, budget carrier Norwegian told.

When the troubled low-cost airline Norwegian announced in January it was dropping its long-haul operations to concentrate on short-haul and domestic flights in Norway, thousands of staff around Europe suddenly lost their jobs.

Yet, the devastating news has been compounded in recent days, for not only have they been made redundant, but those former staff members have now been told by the liquidators, KPMG, that they will not even be paid owed salary, holiday or notice pay, despite recent assurances from the airline and been informed they must claim part of their pay arrears from the UK government.  

The issue has been made much more confusing and difficult to get to the bottom of as Norwegian isn't just one company,  it is a bizarre and tangled web of subsidiary, side, ring-fenced, or associated companies.  Many staff in the UK were employed by NAR UK. 
The incredibly complex corporate structure is very difficult to unpick, yet the airline continues in Norway, especially now having gained significant government bailouts and Norwegian is being accused of leaving UK staff high and dry, without the money they are rightly owed.  
Given that part of the Norwegian Group entered the equivalent of bankruptcy protection in Ireland in November – and the insolvency of all or part of the Group has been a distinct possibility since then – why was there no proper contingency plans in place for potential liquidation?  
In November last year, “NAR UK” – the UK company - promised pilots that, in the event of insolvency, everyone would as least get paid for their contractual three months’ notice.  But the carrier has now reneged on that promise,  BALPA, the pilots union is now asking why.  
Additionally, last year, “NAR UK” – the part of the company now in liquidation - was supposed to receive around £10.5m from another part of the Norwegian Group - NAS Invest. What happened to that money? Why was it never received by NAR UK and where has it gone? 

These are all questions BALPA has raised with KPMG, the liquidators of the company. We have received assurances that KPMG will investigate the corporate structure and whether any monies are owed to the UK airline. In the view of the union, this money should be made available to help pay what is owed to pilots and other staff – including salary arrears, unpaid pension contributions, unpaid notice and in some case unpaid medical bills.

BALPA said it is “shocked” that the airline's director Dan Flynn “could not identify” the company which owes £10.5 million.   

UK staff are not alone,  its understood that former employees in Spain and Ireland are also going through similar battles to get what they are owed.  

Norwegian has so far refused requests for comment.  

Elsewhere the airline has put its frequent flyer rewards programme on a pause, meaning members can no longer spend the points they have aquireed by being loyal Norwegian customers. 

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