The union representing Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge flight attendants is disappointed that the airline is cutting thousands of its employees loose and they are not able to access emergency COVID-19 benefits from the federal government.

Air Canada announced last week that it will reduce its workforce by up to 60 per cent, and is now forcing its employees to choose between a voluntary unpaid leave for six to 24 months, reducing their work hours with no job share top up or resigning from the company. These options prevent employees from accessing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) because they are deemed voluntary. They have also made the option of Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy completely unavailable.

“The government and Air Canada are washing their hands of this devastating situation and the only options our members are left with is either quit or get laid off and go on EI,” said Wesley Lesosky, President of the Air Canada Component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. “This is shameful and disrespectful towards the workers who have built this airline, who faced this epidemic on the front lines, and who were among the first in Canada to get sick with COVID-19 while doing their jobs.”

Lesosky says the problem could be fixed if the government and Air Canada worked together to make more meaningful options available. He is calling on the government to step in. “We want the federal government to step in and work with the airline so they’re not putting our members out in the cold for no fault of their own. Options like the CEWS are available and must be sought because there is a great deal at stake for our members and their families,” said Lesosky.