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TORONTO - The Supreme Court of Canada has handed down a unanimous decision dismissing Air Canada’s appeal on pay equity. This decision paves the way for the Union to prove that Air Canada is discriminating against Flight Attendants, a predominantly female workforce.

We started this fight back in 1991,” says Pamela Sachs, President, Air Canada Component of CUPE. “We have spent 15 years arguing, basically, that Flight Attendants work for the same “establishment” as Air Canada’s pilots and technical operations personnel.”

The Flight Attendant’s union launched a Human Rights complaint in 1991, claiming that Air Canada discriminated against flight attendants, a predominantly female group, by paying them differently than mechanics and pilots, who were predominately male.

Air Canada insisted that, since the three groups were in different bargaining units, they all worked in different “establishments”. The Commission and CUPE disagreed and the issue went to a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, and then to the Federal Court, Trial Division that ruled the Tribunal did not err in its interpretation of the word “establishment”.

CUPE and the Commission appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal, which found that the pilots, mechanics and flight attendants all work for the same establishment, namely Air Canada.

Air Canada appealed the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. Today, the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Air Canada’s appeal and awarded costs to CUPE.

This is an important win for all unions, since the courts have ruled once and for all that “establishment” cannot be equated with “bargaining unit” or collective agreement”,” says Paul Moist, President of CUPE National. “The ruling affects not only Air Canada Flight Attendants, but any other unionized employee group that has been denied a pay equity review.”

The court chastised Air Canada for delaying the process, stating that: “It is regrettable that Air Canada has resisted this pragmatic definition of “common personnel and wage policy” for almost 15 years, creating enormous expense for itself and the public, and intolerable delay in wage equity, should the flight attendants succeed.”

We will finally be able to show that our predominantly female workforce has been discriminated against for 30 years,” says Sachs.

The Air Canada Component of CUPE represents the 7,000 flight attendants who work for Air Canada. CUPE is Canada’s largest union, representing half a million workers in the public and private sectors. CUPE flight attendants are safety professionals who play a key role in ensuring the safety and comfort of 100,000 passengers daily across Canada and around the world.


Cathy Schlender
manager, communications
CUPE, Air Canada Component
(416) 798-3399 ext. 270
(416) 723-1065