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Union representatives for Air Transat flight attendants are outraged by the company’s recent decision to lay off 52 of their colleagues.

Things did not have to work out this way and it shows what little consideration Air Transat has for its flight attendants,” said Nathalie Stringer, president of CUPE’s Air Transat Component.

The situation could have been even worse. Without the efforts of the union and the goodwill of its members, 200 people would have been laid off in December.

There were 52 layoffs, but effectively, we now have 252 fewer jobs. We have stretched our imagination and attempted the impossible to save everyone, but we are still feeling the effects of the company’s poor decisions,” said Stringer.

According to the union, these layoffs are the result of Air Transat’s recurring practice of leasing its aircraft to other airlines. The pilots go along with the aircraft, but not the flight attendants, thereby producing a consistent surplus of flight attendants.

Air Transat is leasing aircraft for the winter period (January-April) to the French company XL. The pattern will continue in 2010 at the time of the Hajj, the pilgrimage of faithful Muslims to Mecca, when Air Transat plans to lease three planes, again without flight attendants, thus producing a significant surplus of personnel, estimated by the union at 300 employees.

The practice of leasing planes while grounding flight attendant staff isn’t a new for Air Transat. In 2009, the lease of two aircraft to the Indonesian company Air Guaruda, again for the Hajj, caused a considerable upset. Last fall, CUPE’s Air Transat component managed to avoid layoffs through programs of unpaid leave, timesharing and reduced working hours.

“Unfortunately, we can’t perform these juggling acts every year and keep pulling off these small miracles,” said Stringer.

These contracts are very profitable for Air Transat, but it is our members who pay the price. This shows a blatant lack of respect. If Air Transat wants to lease its aircraft, so be it, but with pilots and flight attendants. We are tired of being pushed aside.”

CUPE and Air Transat will start negotiating the renewal of their collective agreement in November of this year. The union is reminding the company of the need to maintain air service that includes its personnel - professionals who have worked with pride for over 20 years and who have enabled Air Transat to become a leader in the airline industry.