Canada’s flight attendant union, CUPE, says now is the time for Transport Minister Omar Alghabra to start acting on the lessons learned during the pandemic to protect the health and safety of airline workers and passengers.

Transport Canada has abandoned its responsibility to keep airline workers and passengers safe during the pandemic, according to Wesley Lesosky, President of CUPE’s Airline Division, which represents 14,000 flight attendants at nine different airlines.

“Every day, our 14,000 members are in the air, unsure whether their government has their back and is enforcing the rules. What good is a regulator when no one listens to what they say, and there’s no enforcement?” asked Lesosky. “Instead of acting like a regulator, Transport Canada has left airlines to determine pandemic safety practices at their discretion, which means profit often supersedes safety.”

Airlines are not being required to keep workers safe, Lesosky said, noting many flight attendants are still lacking the basic PPE needed to do their jobs safely. He noted airlines are not being required to keep the public safe, with inconsistent pre-boarding screening, and insufficient surface and lavatory cleaning.

He also noted flight attendants face a worsening situation with mask compliance onboard, which leads to greater instances of disruptive and aggressive passengers.

“With any luck, the worst of COVID-19 is behind us, but we won’t forget that we’ve been left behind by the Liberal government at every stage of this pandemic,” said Lesosky. “We just hope Minister Alghabra and his government will commit now to learning the lessons and making sure history doesn’t repeat itself when the next health crisis strikes.”