The union representing Air Canada flight attendants is dismayed by the lack of action by both the airline and the government to better protect the safety of flight attendants and passengers in the air.
On March 17, following a complaint by the Air Canada Component of CUPE, an investigation into working conditions onboard three Air Canada aircraft was conducted by the office of the federal Minister of Labour. The investigation determined that “requiring flight attendants to come frequently into close proximity with passengers during the COVID19 outbreak, in order to provide regular service, with no possibility of social distancing presents a serious threat to their health.”
On March 20, the federal government ordered Air Canada to alter working guidelines to mitigate the risks to flight attendants and gave the airline until March 23 to comply.
However, the union representing the flight attendants is wondering why the federal government has yet to take action.
“The lack of action by both the government and the airline is an insult to the flight attendants who have soldiered through this crisis at tremendous risk to their own health and safety to bring thousands of Canadians home,” said Wesley Lesosky, the President of the Air Canada Component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
For weeks, the union has been imploring the government and the company to improve health and safety requirements onboard commercial aircraft. Recommendations from the union included better, and more readily available personal protective equipment for flight attendants and reduced in-flight meal and drink service so that flight attendants are only interacting with passengers for emergencies. Both the government and the company have been slow to respond, although progress has been made it does not go far enough.