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Air Canada announced this week it is planning to lay off 600 flight attendants as part of an estimated 4,000 layoffs across the company in the months to come. The company says the layoffs will affect only those flight attendants hired after December 1999. It claims these workers are not covered by promises there would be no layoffs in the wake of the merger with Canadian Airlines until at least 2002.

CUPEs position is that not one flight attendant need be laid off as a result of the quarterly losses posted by Air Canada, no matter when they were hired. Many of our members would be willing to take voluntary severance packages, to job-share, or to take leaves of absence. We expect the company to explore all of these options in good faith, including the possibility of approaching the federal government for funding assistance.

This is a classic pre-bargaining attack, said Francois Bellemare, president of CUPEs Airline Division. Between these threatened layoffs and the recent announcement of a proposed discount airline owned by Air Canada, the company is obviously setting the table for bargaining, and we will be ready for them.