Canadian airline unions got a commitment from the government that airline workers will be the focus of the federal relief package for the industry hard-hit by the global outbreak of COVID-19. But, CUPE National President Mark Hancock challenges Canada to present a more progressive plan than the one announced by the United States Congress.

Saturday, CUPE National President Mark Hancock, along with the leaders of the Canadian Labour Congress and other unions representing 50,000 airline workers nationwide, met with the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation to ensure that any federal financial aid package responds to the needs of airline workers still on the job as well as the thousands of airline employees recently laid off.

During the call, Minister Morneau pledged that airline workers would be at the center of a federal aid package and committed to involve unions in the development of the plan.

“We are happy that that the government wants to work with us to develop a relief package that will meet the needs of the Canadian airline workers,” said Mark Hancock. “But Liberals now need to put money where their mouth is by adopting a plan that is proportionally more generous and progressive than what is offered in the United States.”

The stimulus bill adopted by the United States Congress provides $31 billion in direct grants, so the 750,000 US airline industry workers continue to receive the same level of pay and benefits through September 30.

On top of pay and benefits protection, Canadian airline union leaders told the ministers that employers should extend health benefit plans and ensure pensionable service is accrued under retirement plans.

They also wanted to ensure that any federal aid allows laid-off employees to return to payroll and maintains employment levels.

Union leaders also asserted that any government support be accompanied by tight restrictions on executive compensation. This includes bonuses and stock options, share buybacks and dividend payments, as well as debt repayment designed to increase shareholder value.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau was also reminded that front-line airline employees need to have access to the appropriate personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of both employees and the traveling public.

“So far, Canadian airlines have made baby steps on the health and safety front,” said CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury. “It’s time for the federal government to jump in to make sure that our flight attendants members get the proper protection now.”

CUPE is Canada’s flight attendant union, representing 15,000 workers at 11 different airlines across Canada.