days until our Collective Agreement expires, we are preparing, we are united and we will make change.

President’s Message – December 2008

2008 has been an extremely busy year for the Union.  Many important issues were dealt with and they seemed never to stop.  The Employer was relentless in its attacks on the Union and the membership but we fought back every step of the way.  The Employer was forced into the Division IX process, which resulted in our membership receiving $5.5 million dollars in mitigation and other programs.  Hundreds of jobs were saved with 300 special leaves and 200 reduced blocks.  Also, the VSP grievance was won by the Union in arbitration and the VSPs denied in 2007 were granted by the arbitrator.  Air Canada cannot now unilaterally limit the VSP departures to 250, the 250 has been determined as a floor not a ceiling.  The 2008 VSP denials hearing continues on January 5, 2009.

Air Canada owes us further wage increases vis a vis the VSP clawback clause in the Collective Agreement.  This hearing is scheduled to be heard in full on January 21 & 22, 2009.  We have calculated that increase to be approx. 1 – 1.5% for 2007.  Further calculations will be conducted for 2008 and 2009 dependant upon how many VSP’s are granted.  We can safely say at this time that the 2008 and 2009 increases will be between 3 – 4.5%.  The Employer may try to incorporate these increases into bargaining in 2009.  I will stand firm against this.  You are owed the increases over and above any wage increases that might be negotiated in 2009.

2009 Negotiations

The first steps were taken in the spring of 2008 when Local meetings were held at all bases and approximately 200 improvements to the Collective Agreement were proposed by the membership. Those priorities are now being categorized.

In the coming months, with the assistance of CUPE National, the Union will distribute a bargaining survey to all members including anyone still on layoff status.  The survey will address the priorities identified by the membership at the Local meetings.  The results will be catalogued by CUPE National and with CUPE National’s assistance the Component Executive will analyze the membership priorities.

With those priorities in hand, we will bring in the required experts to assist Component Executive in understanding and achieving the priorities identified in the membership survey in direct bargaining.

The final step will be the face to face negotiations.  While this will be the most public stage, our success will depend largely on all of the preparation work done ahead of time.  We will ensure that your bargaining committee is surrounded by the experts required to achieve the priorities identified by the membership in the bargaining survey.

The Role of Chief Arbitrator, Martin Teplitsky

Members have asked “Why does Mr. Teplitsky decide all our grievances?”

Prior to CCAA, the Union had a backlog of grievances, thousands in fact.  As part of the emergence from CCAA there was an agreed upon resolution to deal with this backlog (clean slate process).  For the go forward, until the expiration of the current Collective Agreement on June 30, 2009, it was further resolved that there would be an expedited grievance/arbitration process (LOU 44 of the Collective Agreement).  Arbitrator Martin Teplitsky was appointed Chief Arbitrator to deal with all of the Unions’ grievances including PBS issues.

The Union and the Company meet monthly with Arbitrator Teplitsky.  The Grievance Committee, along with Legal Counsel and our National assigned CUPE Rep Humberto daSilva, prepare legal briefs prior to the hearings.  These briefs are always authorized and/or edited as required, by myself.  We sit down and thoroughly prepare in advance of all the hearings.  I have attended and participated at Arbitrator Teplitsky hearings since the beginning of my term in office.

On December 2, 2008 some very important issues were heard in front of Arbitrator Teplitsky and decided in our favour:

  1. Freedom of Expression

In October 2008, one of our members had their right to freedom of expression violated by Air Canada. He was forbidden, on threat of termination, from using his private email list to publish a popular newsletter. As Component President, I authorize the carriage of grievances at the Component level, and as such filed this extremely important Policy Grievance in defense of all of our members’ right to Freedom of Expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  I engaged one of the  best labour lawyers in Canada to defend this member’s individual right and by extension the rights of all our members as a whole.  Mr. Teplitsky did not waste any time when he deliberated this case in favour of the Union.  I am very pleased with this outcome and the continued preservation of our rights and  freedoms we enjoy in this great land.

  1. Voluntary Draft List

      In accordance with Article B9.03.02 – Standard Draft Sequence, volunteers in seniority order wishing to be drafted are first in the sequence (B9.03.02.01).  The Employer has conveniently ignored this clause   claiming it is another step in the drafting process that would slow down awarding drafts at the last minute.  The Union argued that it would be beneficial to the Company to actually have volunteers, ready to be drafted on a separate list, which would speed up the drafting process.  The Union also argued that it would benefit our members who wish to accept a draft.

      The arbitrator ordered Air Canada to implement the voluntary draft list on a trial basis.  I have written to  Michael Nicholas, Director Crew Planning & Scheduling and requested the list be activated on an immediate basis.  It is our understanding of the order that you can put your name on the list for  specific or non-specific flights/destinations but once assigned, you cannot refuse, subject to legalities.

  1. Violation of LOU 27 – Last Sold Seats

      Air Canada is in breach of the Collective Agreement and is directed to issue a bulletin to all agents worldwide to ensure compliance with our contract.  If you find that passengers are seated in the last sold seats when other seats are empty, you must inform the In-Charge who in turn will inform the gate agent.  Do not attempt to relocate passengers, this is a gate agent function.  If a delay occurs, it will not be charged to In-Flight or the operating crew.

  1. Netline

      The Company is to provide the Union with timely answers to its on-going issues with Netline/Crewlink. The Union further requested (again) that the Company allow crew members access to each others schedules.  As of Monday December 15, 2008, Michael Nicholas, Director Crew Planning & Scheduling has not complied with this request.  If need be, we will return to Arbitrator Teplitsky.

  1. Grievances From the December 2nd Hearing Going to Full Arbitration

      Arbitrator Teplitsky sometimes cannot conclude grievances without evidence in chief.  This requires a grievance to be heard in full and arbitrated upon.  Witnesses for both parties are required to be
present   for cross examination of their written testimony.

Two grievances from the December 2nd hearing were moved to full arbitration, they are:

§  VSP Clawback/Wage Increase Formula

§  Sheppell FGI

The VSP Clawback arbitration will be heard on January 21 & 22, 2009.  We will utilize legal resources as well as expert extrinsic (historical) evidence.  The Sheppell arbitration date is yet to be confirmed.

This expedited process, is extremely advantageous to our members.  In other unionized industries, grievances and arbitration procedures are very slow, sometimes it can take years for a resolution to even the simplest of issues.  I would like to see the expedited process re-negotiated in 2009 but with some changes.  We need a rotating list of arbitrators to choose from, not just one.

Pension Plan Funding

Issues affecting employees of Air Canada as a whole are more effectively addressed with a common front approach and united effort from all Unions.  Your best interests are my top priority and I therefore agreed without hesitation to have CUPE join the Air Canada Unions’ Council.

Air Canada Unions met together for the second time on December 15, 2009, to discuss Air Canada’s pension situation and will be meeting again on January 7, 2009.  As you may know, the Company is seeking changes to federal pension regulations to make it easier for them to meet their pension payment obligations.  The federal government has also proposed a 10 year solvency deficiency payment amortization schedule which may come into force in the next few months.  The federal government has also announced a consultative process, which is to take place in 2009, whereby, the various stakeholders can make representations regarding improvements to pension regulations and legislation.  You probably also know that the assets in the pension plan have taken a major hit and have lost much of their value over the last year.  And to add insult to injury, you have probably also read that ACE intends to distribute its approximately $800 million in cash to debt and share holders rather than to Air Canada.

Be assured that CUPE and the other Air Canada Unions are on top of this situation and have hired the best legal and actuarial help to get us through this crisis.  The Unions will be engaging retiree representatives, the government, and the Company to come up with solutions to ensure the long term viability of our pension plan.  The Unions will be sending a letter to the government in the next few days with suggestions as to how to achieve this goal.  We will keep you updated as developments take place.

Your Union At Work For You

I have received a few phone calls from you asking to explain our Union structure and how decisions are ultimately made on your behalf.

The Air Canada Component of CUPE is governed by Component Bylaws and the Component Executive (ACCEX) is comprised of three (3) Component Officers (President, Vice-President, and Secretary-Treasurer) and four (4) Local Presidents representing Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver.  Any decisions that are made on behalf of the membership as a whole are made through properly constituted motions of the Executive and/or through the individual roles and responsibilities of each Officer as per the governing by-laws.  The Component President is the Chairperson of the Component Executive Committee and as such does not have a vote except in a tie.  There are many areas of Union business that the ACCEX decides upon, such as: Component yearly budget approval, LETS to the Collective Agreement, ALL processes not covered by the Collective Agreement, including outstanding PBS issues, etc.  Local Executive (Base Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Secretary-Treasurer) are governed by Local By-laws and are autonomous.

The Component President Has Five (5) Main Areas of Responsibility:

  1. Protection of the rights of the membership through administration and enforcement of the Collective Agreement;
  2. Interpretation of the Collective Agreement;
  3. Appointments to Component Committees;
  4. Responsibility for the conduct of the affairs and business of the Union at the Component;
  5. Handling of all grievances/arbitrations at Component level (step 2 grievances, policy grievances and full arbitrations), including authorizing the hiring of legal counsel and other experts.

Please consult the Component By-laws found on the Component website and keep yourself fully informed of the inner workings of your Union.  Knowledge is Power!

Membership Bulletins

I have always maintained that the better educated our membership is on issues affecting us, the stronger we become collectively.  Since my election in February 2007, I have distributed 198 Component and Committee bulletins and have answered thousands of member e-mail Knowledge is Power!  Power is Strength!  Communication is vital, especially as we head into bargaining.  We also need to find new, additional and innovative ways of communicating other than by traditional bulletins.  Monthly video broadcasts from the Component website would be a great additional start.

30% Recycled Paper

I have initiated a program at the Component Head Office that will see the use of recycled paper for all our office needs and requirements.  At the Component, we use tons of paper, approx. 400,000 sheets per year.

Component Calendar 2009

You will be receiving the CUPE Component calendar in your mail folders prior to the end of the year.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank Heather Tilroe, Component Solidarity Committee Chairperson for undertaking the design and content of the 2009 calendar.  Heather worked extremely hard on this within a very tight timeline.

Rumours, Rumours

Seniority Integration: It has come to my attention that some of you may still be concerned about the seniority integration of ex CAIL and original Air Canada flight attendants.  As Component President, I would like to assure you that I am here to represent all our members equally and it is absolutely not on my agenda to reconsider the aforementioned seniority integration.  The issue has been arbitrated and an appeal has been dismissed at the Federal Court of Canada.

As always, I ask that instead of listening to hearsay, contact the source of accurate information.  E-Mail me, phone or drop by at Component Head Office for the facts on any issues concerning you.  I can be reached via e-mail at or by telephone at (416)798-3399 Ext 236.

Up-Coming in January 2009

January is going to be an extremely busy month for me.  I have four arbitration dates to prepare for on top of regular day to day Union business.  Important dates in January include:

  • January 5, 2009 – VSP Arbitration (2008 Denials)
  • January 6, 2009 – VSP Clawback Preparation with Legal Counsel
  • January 7, 2009 – All Unions’ Counsel Meeting Re: Pensions
  • January 8, 2009 – Bargaining Survey Preparation with ACCEX
  • January 13, 2009 – Teplitsky Grievance Review Preparation
  • January 14, 2009 – Teplitsky Grievance Review
  • January 19, 2009 – VSP Arbitration (2008 Denials) Continued
  • January 21 & 22, 2009 – VSP Clawback Arbitration
  • Last week of January 2009 – Tentative Block Rule Grievances/Level
    2 Preparation and Hearing

I would like to extend my sincerest best wishes to you and yours for the upcoming holiday season.  Wishing you all good health and safe flying for the New Year!

In unity,


Lesley Swann, President, Air Canada Component of CUPE

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