Yellowknife, N.W.T.– First Air flight attendants based in Yellowknife are organizing to stop company restructuring, which will result in significant layoffs and pay cuts and have a negative economic impact on the North West Territories. Flight attendants are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
First Air, which advertises itself as “the Airline of the North”, has announced that effective June 1, 2002, it plans to cut 24 permanent jobs in Yellowknife and create 11 new positions in Edmonton.
In addition, ten senior flight attendants who remain in Yellowknife will face pay cuts of about $12,000 a year.
The company has also announced an additional 10 job cuts at their Ottawa base.
No other departments or management are currently affected, but the Union is asking if this is just the first stage of a move of operations to the south.
First Air says they need to control northern costs, but haven’t provided any evidence of savings.
“Flight attendants in Yellowknife are devastated and angry. They face pay cuts and job loss. First Air is taking jobs and money out of the north and giving them to Alberta. This community will suffer along with the flight attendants and their families,” said Kevin Beaith, President of the First Air component of CUPE.
“There was no indication that this was coming. Last year, First Air was chosen one of the 50 best-managed companies in Canada. But this plan is ill advised and totally unnecessary. First Air has a secure market in the north. They take enormous profits out of the north, now they are taking jobs out, as well. It is a huge insult to the north,” he said.
“Flight attendants will no longer live in Yellowknife, pay taxes and support the local economy. Instead, Edmonton flight attendants will fly in, stay in hotels and not save the company any money. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Most of the flight attendants now are northerners. They own homes and pay taxes. For every job lost, three more are affected. The whole community loses.”
“We are asking the community to help stop these cuts. CUPE flight attendants are meeting with local and territorial politicians, business and community organizations. This is about service to the north and how companies do business here. This is about local jobs and economic development. We are counting on community pressure to stop First Air, the Airline of the North, from moving south.”
Kevin Beaith, by cell: 613-299-5246
Sandra Sorensen, Communications Branch, CUPE National:
613-237-1590 ext, 268