CUPE, Canada’s flight attendant union, says the federal government must start consulting with workers on how the government can and should support the sector through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been a long eight months for our members whose livelihoods have been shaken or decimated completely by this crisis,” said Wesley Lesosky, President of CUPE’s Airline Division. “Since the spring, we’ve been waiting on a plan from the federal government. The CEWS program, because it was voluntary and many big airlines didn’t take it, failed our sector. And now, eight months later we’re still waiting to hear the phone ring.”

The union has made several overtures to the federal government since the beginning of the pandemic, including a letter from Lesosky to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland last week, but the government has yet to engage or respond.

“If the government wants to know how it can help this sector, they should ask the people who represent those workers day in and day out as they try to find ways to make ends meet,” said Lesosky.

CUPE has called on the federal government to implement pre-boarding COVID-19 rapid tests at airports to make flying safer and to bring customers back to the industry. CUPE has also said any direct financial support to the sector must be contingent on supporting workers first.

CUPE’s Airline Division represents roughly 15,000 flight attendants at nine different airlines across Canada.