Parliament Hill was a buzz on Thursday with CUPE members from nine different airlines engaging in a day of action to raise awareness about unpaid work in the airline industry.

On the eve of International Flight Attendant Day (May 31st), flight attendants started the day with a leaflet to engage morning commuters, before moving onto lobby meetings with MPs and Senators from all major parties.

Members also took part in a news conference with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and NDP MP Bonita Zarrillo to take aim at the lack of action from the Liberal government to remedy the issue of unpaid work.

“Abusive industry practices thrive in the darkness, so we are here to shine a light, so that airline executives can no longer hide in the dark,” said Wesley Lesosky, President of CUPE’s Airline Division.

A 2022 survey of CUPE airline members revealed that, on average, flight attendants in Canada perform 35 hours of unpaid work every single month. Those duties include vital safety-related tasks during the boarding and deplaning process, as well as things like assisting passengers with special needs to their seats, performing emergency evacuation demonstrations and pre-flight safety checks.

“Airlines have never extracted more free labour from us than they are right now, at a time when the pay cheques we are taking home are getting us less and less because of inflation. We are getting crushed by corporate greed at seemingly every angle,” said Alia Hussain, President of CUPE 4070 representing cabin crew at WestJet, Encore and Swoop.

Despite a long road ahead, Lesosky is optimistic, saying sooner or later, flight attendants will win the day.

“The government can work with us instead of against us, but one way or another, we are going to end this outdated and unjust practice. We can go the easy way or the hard way, with or without their help. But either way, unpaid work will simply not fly any longer.”