As many of you have noticed lately, Air Canada has been trying to implement some changes to our policies regarding our brevets (nametags) and the lanyards for your RAIC pass. While some of these proposed changes may seem minor to some, it is also quite clear that for many of us, these changes are significant, and unacceptable.
Please allow me to better explain what’s happening, and what the Union is doing.
Several days ago, the Company issued a communication specifying that going forward, Air Canada Flight Attendants will have reduced options for what they can display on their uniform brevets. In the past, the Company accommodated members who preferred to not display their names on the brevets, allowing them to display a blank brevet, or a brevet with the individual’s title (Flight Attendant or Service Director). Alternatively, if somebody didn’t want to display a first name on their brevet, they could opt for their first name initial, followed by their last name.
The Company is now requiring that cabin crew members display a first name only on their brevets, either their actual first name or a pseudonym.
The Union objects to this ill-considered deviation from past practice. Firstly, we object because we stood firm against this change during the latest round of collective bargaining, and from our perspective, the process has not been respected.
Secondly, we believe that our members should be allowed to make a personal choice on this matter; each and every one of us has a different perspective on this based on personal experiences. For some, it’s a matter of personal security. For others, a first name is a private part of their lives that they don’t wish to openly share with everybody as it may create an uncomfortable level of intimacy. Many members see this as an important professional distinction – a first-name name tag feels like it’s taking away from the primarily safety-based nature of our profession. Police Officers, Firefighters and Paramedics don’t usually display their first names on their visible identifiers, and as such, many Flight Attendants prefer to do the same.
Also, during the 2011 negotiations, the Company requested to remove the option which allowed cabin crew members to simply display their title on their brevets (rather than their names), but this was rejected. As such, the Union takes the position that the Company is estopped from removing this option from the Uniform policy.
Finally, the merits of a name tag to improve the customer experience is debatable and highly subjective. Some feel that it improves relationships between employees and customers, whereas some feel that it’s tacky, artificial and doesn’t support the professional image we’re trying to project.
No matter where you position yourself in this debate, in the end we believe that our members deserve to have a say in this matter, to be able to choose what best suits their perspective. As such, we’re very hopeful that the Company will understand our perspective, recognize that this isn’t an issue worth fighting over, and willingly decide to maintain the status quo.
In the meantime, the Union has filed an application for interim relief. An application for interim relief is a kind of (temporary) ‘injunction’ allowed under the Canada Labour Code and our Collective Agreement.
We are asking the Chief Arbitrator to convene a hearing to a) prohibit Air Canada from requiring Flight Attendants to wear a name brevet, and b) to allow Flight Attendants to continue to wear a Union lanyard, at their option. Additionally, if this matter is not settled in our favour, we will pursue our other options for resolving this issue along alternate channels.
In recent communications and also during training, the Company has indicated that only the Company-approved lanyard, and not the Union lanyard, will be permitted to be worn with your uniform. The Union strongly objects to this request.
You may wonder why the issue of the lanyard would be so important, but the simple reality is this: we believe our members have the RIGHT to wear either the Company lanyard OR the Union lanyard, as well as a Union pin, if they so choose.
It’s no surprise that the Company doesn’t love the Union lanyard – it’s a show of solidarity, of belonging to a community outside of Air Canada’s corporate structure. It’s a visible display of unity, and yes, of your membership in a trade union that represents and defends your rights.
Whether you prefer to wear the Union’s lanyard or not, we believe that this is your choice to make.
You will hear more about these issues in the weeks ahead.
President, Air Canada Component of CUPE
Click HERE for a printable, and downloadable, version of this bulletin.