Yesterday afternoon Component Vice President Theresa Mitchell, Airline Division Secretary-Treasurer Rena Kisfalvi, and I had the pleasure of meeting with the Honourable Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra. This meeting was held at our request so that we could discuss the many issues we are currently facing in the Transportation sector.
We discussed a multitude of topics that have come forward since the onset of the pandemic. Some of the key points we raised were:
1. Consultation and the fact that we need to be consulted on reopening borders and the economic recovery, in addition to an industry aid package that will be going out to the airlines in general.
2. There are tens of thousands of unemployed workers in this industry in Canada right now. Any aid package must prioritize workers, and in particular, funding for education and training to help people support themselves and get back into the workforce. Sixty-one per cent of our airline division members surveyed said they would be willing to move into another line of work to help with the pandemic. Each of you are highly skilled, first aid trained, first responders and often multilingual. We stressed the need for the government to recognize and use this as a benefit.
3. CEWS was raised again, and we further asserted that this system is broken. Air Canada didn’t use it, Air Canada Rouge didn’t use it and we certainly feel every worker should have been afforded equal government assistance. Any aid package should require the airlines to use CEWS. Each Canadian airline employee should have equal opportunity to the government assistance that is on the table. We should not be forced onto EI, while others enjoy CEWS and some of the many benefits that come along with it.
4. Air Transat acquisition and the lack of transparency.
5. Vaccines were stressed as something our members need access to, and NOW. You cannot work from home, you cannot physically distance at work, and you come into contact with dozens, if not hundreds, of people daily in the course of your duties. The Union strongly believes that cabin crew fit every federal qualification for early immunization and should be prioritized accordingly. We all must be able to return to work safely in order for the economy and borders to reopen safely.
The Minister was very humble, receptive, and supportive. He came across as being genuine when he recognized the contribution each member has made during such difficult times. This is a work in progress, and after a year of silence under the previous Transport Minister, a huge first step.
We look forward to more open dialogue regarding any financial assistance for the sector, enhancements to federal aid programs or a reopening of the borders. We impressed upon the Minister the adverse and far-reaching impact felt by our members. We are very pleased to have this Minister take the time to listen and will continue to ensure that your government will hear what we have to say and make a meaningful difference.
President, Air Canada Component of CUPE