The union representing Canada’s flight attendants says it was reassuring to hear comments about supporting the airline industry and the tens of thousands of people it employs from Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on Tuesday - but now the federal government needs to act.
“Our door is open and we’re ready to talk to the federal government about what a worker-focused support package for the airline industry would look like,” said Wesley Lesosky, President of the Airline Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). “At this point, we’re hoping to see some actual engagement and some real decisions from the federal government, rather than more promises to think about doing something.”
Airline workers across Canada are feeling renewed engagement after Tuesday’s rally on Parliament Hill, calling for support for the industry and the people it employs. Canada remains the only G7 country without a support plan for airlines.
“It’s time for our government to show support to workers in this critical part of our economy,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “Canada should follow the example already set by governments in Europe and provide financial support to our airlines along with strong equity stakes.”
CUPE’s Airline Division represents approximately 15,000 flight attendants at nine airlines across the country, including Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat, Sunwing, PAL Airlines, Calm Air, First Air, Canadian North, and Flair Air. Roughly two-thirds of those workers have been furloughed or permanently let go due to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CUPE has argued that implementing pre-boarding rapid testing at airports would make flying safer for the public and flight attendants alike, and has called repeatedly on the federal government to make it a reality. CUPE has also emphasized that any direct government support for airlines must come with a public stake in the companies.