The federal government’s fall economic statement on Monday represents another opportunity squandered by the Liberals to help tens of thousands of airline workers left jobless by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the union that represents Canada’s flight attendants.
The Airline Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents about 15,000 flight attendants at nine different airlines across Canada, two-thirds of whom are currently laid off.
“For months, we’ve been sending proposals and requesting meetings with the federal government, only to be swept aside,” said Wesley Lesosky, President of CUPE’s Airline Division. “Despite that, our members who are laid off at home wondering if they’ll have a career to return to once COVID subsides were hopeful Monday would bring good news for them. Instead, they were left disappointed by this government once again.”
CUPE has been lobbying the government for rapid testing at airports and targeted financial support for the sector that put workers first. Neither appeared in the fall economic statement, the so-called “fall budget” of the federal government.
The Liberals did boost the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) back to 75 per cent, up from 60 per cent, of pre-pandemic wages. That will help some, but most of CUPE’s airline members cannot access the CEWS because six of its nine airlines, including Air Canada, are only participating by enrolling active members, which means laid-off workers lose access to their company benefits and receive greatly reduced federal income support. “There was, and still is, an opportunity to help these workers access better income support through CEWS and also maintain their company benefits,” said Lesosky. “We just need the government to listen and act.”
Lesosky also acknowledged support for essential air services to remote and northern communities, routes worked by CUPE members, as positive news.