The recently-announced workforce reductions at Air Canada could have been lessened if the federal government had developed a plan to support Canada's aviation industry, says Unifor, the union that represents more than 16,000 members working in air transportation.
Jerry Dias, Unifor National President, said Wednesday (Jan. 13) that the cutbacks leave airline workers with "continued disappointment" in Ottawa's lack of action to support aviation.
"For months, we have been demanding that the federal government develop a long-lasting plan and provide financial support to save the industry from total collapse," Dias said in a statement.
Major job losses
Air Canada on Wednesday announced plans to close its Yellowknife, Kamloops, Gander and Goose Bay regional offices and reduce its first-quarter capacity by 25% resulting in 1,700 job losses.
The job cuts will also affect more than 200 workers at its Express carriers. This is in addition to the more than 20,000 layoffs previously announced last May.
"It baffles me that our federal government continues to remain silent when in the past week we have seen layoffs at WestJet and now Air Canada. The federal government can no longer operate as business as usual. Support for airline workers needs to be an immediate priority of the incoming Minister of Transport," said Dias.
Though the CEWS program provided some job protection measures for Canadian airline workers, the sector has seen unprecedented layoffs and furloughed workers.
Unifor, alongside Air Canada Pilots Association, Air Line Pilots Association and Canadian Airline Dispatchers Association, issued a joint media release on Wednesday calling on the federal government to make a direct and meaningful financial contribution to the already devastated airline industry.
"The harsh reality is that airlines are extremely capital-intensive operations with a high cash-burn rate and the requirement to preserve liquidity to maintain equipment, routes, and staff. This reality is not considered under the CEWS, and it is a clear indication that more federal government support is required," the statement said.
Airline workers are not part of the negotiations that are taking place between airlines and the federal government, but "we are past time for a resolution on this issue," the groups said.
“Our government and airline leaders need to make a deal,” said Russ Williams, President of the Canadian Airline Dispatcher Association. “The longer it takes, the more our workers are paying the price – as every day more routes are cancelled, more jobs lost, and any potential future recovery looks to be years away.”
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