The past year has been a rocky one for the airline industry, but CUPE’s airline workers are hoping and fighting for a safe return to flying in 2021. In March, the pandemic grounded flights across the globe. Roughly two-thirds of CUPE’s 15,000 flight attendant members were laid off almost overnight.
Since March, help for CUPE’s airline members has been slow to come. The federal emergency wage subsidy was supposed to help keep workers on the payroll, but failed workers when many major airlines opted not to take it. Workers have also had to fight to get access to suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) in a tight work environment where physical distancing is impossible.
CUPE’s Airline Division has been busy fighting for members since day one. The Division launched the Safer Skies Now campaign, calling for a federal strategy to boost our domestic supply of PPE and strengthen the rights of workers to refuse unsafe work. The Division is also pressuring the federal government to implement pre-boarding rapid testing for COVID-19 at airports to help keep airline workers, passengers and the general public safe.
The Division says financial support from the federal government will be critical to protecting the livelihoods of thousands of workers in the sector. “Our members answered your call when COVID-19 struck,” said Airline Division President Wesley Lesosky in a recent letter to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. “We now ask that you answer theirs.”