The union representing 9,500 flight attendants at Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge says it is worried the federal government has gone back to its old ways of leaving airline workers out to dry and acting unilaterally without consultation.

CUPE firmly believes in the role the federal government has to play in keeping the public safe in the face of the worrying new Omicron variant of COVID-19. However, decisions affecting major sectors of the economy should be made in consultation with workers to ensure policies are effective at keeping people safe while minimizing damage to livelihoods.

“Our number one priority for our members and for the public is keeping everyone safe,” said Wesley Lesosky, President of the Air Canada Component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). “As workers in this industry, the federal government should be listening to our voices and our input on how to make our work environment and our passengers’ traveling environment as safe as possible.”

CUPE believes pre-travel rapid testing for overseas inbound travelers would go a long way to achieve that.

“For 15 months, we have been calling on the federal government to bring in rapid testing to make flying safer for passengers and crew alike, and they have ignored us,” said Lesosky. “Instead, the feds opted for ineffective PCR tests up to 72 hours before travel, which has been a predictable and undeniable failure with harmful effects for our industry.”

CUPE also believes the government needs to get serious on the issue of unruly passengers and non-compliance with mask mandates onboard, which are unfortunately becoming more and more interwoven. “We need real enforcement for non-compliance, and we need real penalties, including criminal penalties, for passengers who harass and assault flight attendants,” said Lesosky.

“Our lives have been thrown into turmoil over the past two years, and during that time, decision-makers have almost never bothered to pick up the phone and talk to us about a path forward. The feds need to engage us as stakeholders in these important decisions, but we’re worried we’re about to see a lot more of the same.”