Southwest Airlines can avoid furloughs and layoffs at least through 2021 if union workers agree to pay cuts, Chief Executive Gary Kelly told employees on Monday.

Last week, Kelly had warned the airline could be forced to follow rivals and lay off thousands of employees due to the coronavirus crisis in the absence of an extension of federal payroll aid, which lawmakers continue to negotiate in Washington.

If the federal relief does come through, the airline would discontinue or reverse the pay-cut efforts, Kelly said.

But without another payroll support package, he said cost savings must be in place for all employee groups by Jan. 1, 2021.

Kelly is reducing his base salary to zero through the end of 2021 and continuing a 20% cut in senior executives’ pay through next year. The airline is also reducing all leadership group salaries by 10% until Jan. 1, 2022, when he said they will return to the current level.

The company is also approaching union representatives for concessions and hoping for quick agreement, he said.

“We simply don’t have time for long, drawn-out, complex negotiations,” Kelly said.

Rivals American Airlines and United Airlines have already begun furloughing 32,000 employees.

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; additional reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Nick Zieminski)

This article was written by Tracy Rucinski from Reuters and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

Photo Credit: Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly is calling on the unions to consider pay cuts to avoid layoffs across the airline. Skift