Dear friends and colleagues,
The individual ratification votes have been electronically tabulated and independently verified, and the end result was determined by a very tight margin. In the end, the Tentative Agreement was ratified, with 2,768 members voting yes, and 2,719 members voting no. 75.3% of the membership participated in this vote.
Before we talk about what happens next, it is incredibly important that we all compose ourselves, however we may feel about the results, and accept that this outcome, while being divided, remains fair and legitimate, as it was determined by the statistical majority of voters, and as per our bylaws. It is not the first time in our history that a vote result was extremely tight, and it is certainly not the last time either. I mentioned in my letter from a couple of weeks ago that I would have preferred a strong majority result, whether it had been YES or NO, rather than a vote result split down the middle. And as it turns out, my hopes weren’t met, and there was no overwhelming pull towards one result over the other. Our very diverse group positioned itself almost evenly on both sides of a difficult and obviously quite polarized decision.
Much of the membership is satisfied with this result, but it is undeniable that there are almost just as many who would have preferred a different outcome. And despite the fact that this result was reached democratically, with a particularly high voter turnout, those who are unhappy with the outcome are absolutely entitled to their feelings and their opinions. I have personally voted both NO and YES to tentative agreements in the past, and I never felt like my choices were wrong, or deserving of harsh criticism by others.
This being said, it is so important right now that we minimize conflict with each other about the results of the vote. Being angry is okay, but being angry at each other is not. We shouldn’t brag, point fingers, gloat or lay blame. Because when we go to work in the days ahead, we will be working alongside colleagues who voted YES, and colleagues who voted NO. There were no right or wrong choices here – just individual preferences, perspectives and priorities. The vote could easily have gone the other way, and the cards would have been flipped. A few dozen votes in the opposite direction, and the other half of our community would be celebrating right now. So no matter how we all voted, or how we feel about the result, I hope we can lay our recent heated ratification debates to rest, and come together again as one group, ready to move forward.
It is absolutely imperative that we quickly and tactfully repair any rifts between the YES voters and the NO voters, and renew our bonds of solidarity and support. Because we all know how past divides have driven wedges into our community, and weakened our unity for very long periods of our common history. We do not want to go down that road again. So I am asking you all to make an effort to accept where we are today, focus on the many gains obtained in this agreement, and walk forward together for the good of our entire group.
Okay. Now it’s time to talk about the future, about what comes next for all of us.
This is the beginning of a new chapter in our history, one which I hope will mark a newfound and much-improved relationship between our members and our employer. For many years now, we have been unable to effectively be heard by our employer. Our concerns have generally gone unnoticed, our issues have been mostly ignored, and our pride, trust and loyalty have plummeted as a result. We have wanted to be consulted, and respected, but we haven’t had the right platform, or the right audience. But this is changing faster than you would think.
The past several months of collective bargaining have been successful not only for the improvements we have secured in our collective agreement, but also because our employer has expressed a newfound respect for our perspective and our insight. Air Canada is finally starting to truly recognize the impact we have on the Company’s success. I believe that going forward, we can work proactively towards addressing our issues with the Company without always being utterly dependant on red tape or our lengthy grievance process, but rather work at obtaining mutual resolutions on a number of issues by using open dialogue, and channels that were previously unavailable to us. An effective Union is like an Embassy of sorts – diplomacy, mutual respect and good faith can go a long ways towards improving relations between two parties. And in this, we have been quite successful of late. It has taken a while to get here, but we finally have the Company’s ear. Air Canada recognizes our efforts, and have promised us respect and consideration. We’ll still butt head at times of course, but overall, they’ve expressed a determined intention to take us seriously, and to do their share towards rebuilding trust and morale. I plan to take them up on their offer, and make sure they stick to their promises.
Now that our group can finally breathe easier concerning the uncertainty of the Low Cost Carrier and its long-term impact on mainline job security, now that we have a master seniority list and our own scope clause, now that we know that our Employer won’t close down crew bases, and that our system-wide block hours have guaranteed growth for many years to come, we can start looking to the long-term again. We can move beyond all of our individual ‘Plan B’ prepping and focus on implementing many of the important assets that we will soon adopt in our workplace, like the Time Bank, the flow-through, the paid meal expenses, or the upcoming flight drop system. We can take on a number of important projects, like the relaunching of our 1:40 campaign, targeting the newly-elected Liberal Government, in the hopes of repairing some of the damage done by the Conservatives, or lobbying the same parties towards tighter regulations regarding Cosmic Radiation exposure. We can review our bylaws and look at ways of improving the way our Union operates. We have also learned a great deal about communication along the way, about how to better reach, inform, consult and educate our membership; we can use our new Webinar technology to reach members more widely, and give them tools and information that were previously so difficult to disseminate. We can focus on Health and Safety, and better educate our members at large about how to prioritize their own safety and well being in the workplace despite oftentimes difficult service expectations. And much, much more.
I know that this is a period of mixed emotions for many, and I respect your feelings. But all eight members of the Bargaining Committee, all of us flight attendants also, are very optimistic about our collective future. We promise to continue working extremely hard on your behalf as we begin this promising new chapter in our history.
President, Air Canada Component of CUPE