Letter to the Honourable Omar Alghabra

DELIVERED VIA EMAIL

 OPEN LETTER

January 7, 2022

Hon. Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transportation

Dear Minister Alghabra:
We are writing to you today in a sincere attempt to inform and advise you of our heightened concerns relating to the health and safety of our membership at Air Canada Mainline and Air Canada Rouge.

They carry with them the Canadian spirit which is to be good hosts on top of their usual important in-flight safety duties. Unfortunately, they are also frequently being called upon to police mask compliance, which is rampant, to deal with disruptive passengers and to navigate ever-changing COVID-19 protocols. These are coming out of foreign governments, the Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments and these protocols impact their professional and private lives in a direct way given the nature of their work.

Added to all of this our members must carry out the wishes of the employer to continue to provide onboard service which in our view flies in the face of a prudent, safe, and healthy approach to onboard realities. Municipalities and provinces have recognised the danger that Omicron presents, and they have taken measures to stop the spread.  Unfortunately for our members Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge have not taken appropriate measures and continue to insist that customers be provided with onboard amenities akin to what was provided previously and the rationale for this is so that they can “compete”. It begs the question of what they are competing for. Most travellers want to get safely from point “a” to point “b”.

The fact is that the longer someone is eating and drinking onboard an aircraft, the longer they are maskless and the higher the risk of exposure is – regardless of things like onboard airflow.  As you know, the Omicron variant is extremely contagious – far more than previous variants that were driving public and corporate policy. We implore you to give better direction to employers who are putting the commercial enterprise ahead of the health and well-being of our members. The pandemic is still here, as much as we wish it wasn’t, and your department has an obligation to ensure that health and safety obligations for employers under Part II of the Canada Labour Code is respected. Our members are engaged in the safety process each and every time they put their uniform on but express a deep concern that the employer does not share this approach.

Now is not the time to concern ourselves with whether or not someone got the cheese service onboard, it is the time to limit onboard service to the most practical and safe process available. Your own department encourages eating to last no longer than 15 minutes in advice to passengers and the airline industry. During difficult times, tough, unpopular decisions are necessary. This is especially true when they are the right decisions to protect the health and well-being of citizens.

In closing, despite hundreds of reports filed under the Internal Complaint Resolution Process questioning the safety of onboard service levels and how they conflict with required and recommended COVID-19 protections and contribute to risk, it took a work refusal for anyone in your department to recognize the concerns we are raising in this letter. That’s not how the law is supposed to work.

It is also fair to point out that the recent Sunwing incident, although extreme, has highlighted the issues of noncompliance and a complete disregard for Flight Attendants.  Our Prime Minister seems to share this concern as well, so we implore you to take this seriously.

We ask that you consult and investigate this matter so that we can all rest easy in the knowledge that we did all that we could to protect our vulnerable members of society and to stand proud of our decisions.  History will be kind to some who chose to act responsibly, and we want to be on the right side of that divide.

Sincerely,

Wesley Lesosky
President, Air Canada Component of CUPE

cc: Right Honourable Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister of Canada
Theresa Mitchell – Vice President, Air Canada Component of CUPE
Alex Habib – Secretary-Treasurer, Air Canada Component of CUPE
Guillaume Leduc – President, CUPE Local 4091 – Air Canada
Denis Montpetit – President, CUPE Local 4092 – Air Canada
Carolyn Bugnon – President, CUPE Local 4094 – Air Canada
Kim Wentzell – President, CUPE Local 4095 – Air Canada
Craig Smith – President, CUPE Local 4098 – Air Canada Rouge
Kevin Tyrrell – National Representative, CUPE National
Chantale Grenon-Nyenhuis – Assistant Director Organizing and Regional Services, CUPE National
Alexandra Chang Pinosa – Senior Research Officer, CUPE National
Hugh Pouliot – Communications, CUPE National
Air Canada Component of CUPE Membership

Click HERE for PDF version of this letter.