On August 19th an arbitrator was appointed under Division IX of the Canada Labour Code, to develop an adjustment program to mitigate the effects of laying off over 500 Air Canada flight attendants. Brian Keller was appointed the Arbitrator.
The Arbitrator’s award, issued September 14th, basically gives flight attendants two choices - terminate their employment or stay working on an adjusted basis. There will be some funds available to help them adjust to the changes they will experience but overall the airline is only paying $5.5 million once for an annual cost reduction of $33 million.
In the union’s view, the arbitrator’s award somewhat softens the hardship created by the job cuts and base closures, but still leaves attendants having to make major choices and adjustments. Arbitrator Keller did not award a severance package nor any supplemental payments registered with Employment Insurance for attendants opting to leave the airline. Part of the difficulty in determining the position of the affected attendants was that the airline changed its position from declaring the job cuts as permanent to indicating the layoffs would now be temporary.
The financial resources available for the approximately 500 flight attendants affected by the cuts and closures will provide for 40 relocations, some commuting to work and a job sharing option, but not for all those choosing to stay with the airline. Those choosing to leave the airline will have no severance and only minimal support. The total cost of the adjustment package will be a maximum of $5.5 million dollars, for the costs of a job sharing arrangement, communing, special leaves, relocation and counselling. The union and the employer are now getting clarifications from the Arbitrator to know exactly what will be done next and what flight attendants will specifically get if they leave or stay with the airline.
The award does not address the base closure issue and therefore the union will continue to campaign publicly to keep the bases in Halifax and Winnipeg open.
For those attendants willing to stay, there will be:
Some financial assistance will be available for affected employees, from Halifax, Winnipeg and Vancouver, who are forced to commute. They may claim part of the cost of some travel to their assignments. The parties are to consult on the most effective way of implementing this new arrangement.
Some relocation benefits will be offered to ten homeowners and ten renters in each of Halifax and Winnipeg. They are to be chosen in order of seniority. A homeowner package is worth a $35,000 and for renter it is $15,000.
300 ‘mini-blocks’ or shared blocks of flying are to be offered as soon as possible; 100 in Vancouver and 200 in Toronto. This program is not to continue for longer than 36 months. The parties are ordered to cooperate in a request to the Human Resources Development Canada to have this job sharing approved as a workforce adjustment program eligible for supplemental EI benefits.
Special Leaves of Absence
A maximum of 200 special leaves are to be offered to the flight attendants. The number of leaves granted will not exceed the number of surplus at each location after the mini-block program. If more than 200 leaves are required to mitigate the effects of lay-off at each location, after the mini-block program, the number may be increased to meet the need, on mutual consent of the parties.
The minimum duration of any leave is to be three months, the maximum duration 36 months, a maximum of fifty 24 month leaves and twenty-five 36 month leaves may be taken (unless the parties otherwise agree), leaves may be extended by mutual consent of the employer and the employee, leaves cannot be cancelled by the employee except by mutual consent of the parties following the written request of the employee and the employer may at any time solicit volunteers to terminate their special leave.
Seniority, service, pay progression and benefits will continue during the length of the leave.
For those attendants choosing to leave Air Canada, there will be:
The employer will give the union $500,000.00, for retraining and counselling affected employees.
‘Right Of Recall’ For Displaced Employees
Employees from Halifax or Winnipeg, who bump to another base, shall have preference for recall if either one or both those bases are reopened within five years. For the next five years, employees from the Vancouver base who bump to another base will have preference for recall to any position at the Vancouver base that becomes vacant by reason of normal attrition or retirement.
For the next five years, displaced employees at any of the three bases will have preference for any vacancies that become available, and need to be filled, at the remaining open bases.