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CUPE flight attendants have reacted angrily to an attempt by Transport Canada to discredit a report demanding improved emergency response services at Canada’s airports.

The report, prepared by an expert in airport safety, details a number of shortcomings in Transport Canada’s regulations, including inadequate staffing levels and equipment requirements. As a result, minimum international standards for response times in the event of an emergency cannot be met at many airports across the country.

Transport Canada has tried to deflect the criticism because the report was released by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), currently in negotiations with the federal government.

“We’re not in collective bargaining and we’re deeply concerned,” said Denise Hill, president of CUPE’s Airline Division. “In an emergency situation, a delay of several minutes can mean the difference between life and death.”

The expert’s report was released one year after the emergency landing of an Air Canada jet in Fredericton, N.B. In that case, it took airport firefighters 15 minutes to locate the plane and several hours to remove the injured.

“Transport Canada claims that standards are adequate at the 28 busiest airports,” said Hill. “But we often fly into smaller airports with no firefighters at the airport, and on those flights they’ve cut the number of flight attendants from two to one.”

“Where is the backup for the flight attendant in the event of an emergency? And what do passengers do if the sole flight attendant is injured?” Hill asked.

The Airline Division of CUPE represents over 9,000 flight attendants working with Canada’s major carriers.

For information, contact Denise Hill (416) 798-3399

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