The COVID-19 Pandemic remains at the forefront of everyone’s mind and has changed the way the world interacts and thinks. In June we saw most of our members being furloughed with a minimal amount being recalled for July and zero recalls for August. In August, we had approximately 2,200 active members. In September and October, we have seen recalls starting again at Mainline, with 141 being recalled in September, and 296 being recalled in October. Air Canada Rouge is recalling for November, with 140 being recalled. We hope with many provinces and cities in Canada moving to stage 3 of their re-opening plan it will encourage those to fly again and book travel.
I also wanted to go over some of the recent initiatives we have undertaken, along with an update on many items that have transpired pre-COVID and during COVID. We have provided to you so many updates on the pressing items that sometimes the smaller items, of equal importance, can be lost.
WIP EI Sick Carve Out – Lobbying the Government
In May the government of Canada announced changes to some of the COVID-19 legislation that was created. One of the changes is such that employees collecting the CERB Benefit are not eligible for the Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) Plan Top Up. This means that during the 15-week carve out period, the top-up normally provided to maintain the same benefit level as your WIP benefit has been put on hold until further notice. Your Wage Indemnity Board of Trust members along with their administrative consultant have lobbied the government to change this legislation back to the normal practice so that members can receive their top-up when on sickness benefits.
New Service Onboard
The Company has recently announced the roll out of new product and service elements on board the aircraft. The Union raised some concerns about this with the Company and asked that there be more assertive announcements to remind passengers that face coverings/masks must always be worn onboard unless you are eating and/or drinking. The Company was receptive and new announcements are now made prior to meal service as well as prior to pick up. These align with our request and ask that face coverings must be worn and are mandatory while cabin crew are in their presence. The Union still receives reports that the announcements are not always made, and reminds you that this is for your safety, and the safety of your fellow crew members.
Cabin Crew Shortages
The Union addressed this with the Company at the recent UMHQ meeting that recalls need to occur for September so that we are not in the same situation with cabin crew shortages going forward into fall. We have been monitoring all of this data and see that there has been constant drafting, crew shortages on both overseas and domestic cycles and COVID-19 removals. Given this clear data we emphasised that we truly needed further recalls. The Company added recalls both in July and now again for October at Air Canada Mainline. Our Central Site reps have been working tirelessly still monitoring all flights, 7 days a week, and send me a report with all drafts, short crew and reasons. This is extremely important for us to note trends, issues and prepare for any policy grievances for the go forward.
Safer Skies Campaign
The Air Canada Component and other airlines under the Airline Division recently launched a writing letter campaign “Safer Skies Now” (saferskiesnow.ca), where you can write to the federal government to strengthen the health and safety requirements on-board aircraft, and to ensure cabin crew have the protections (i.e. PPE they need to do their job safely). If you have not visited the site, please do. Each of your voices has power and is heard.
Hong Kong (HKG) and Testing
Effective July 29, 2020 all crew who arrive in HKG must test negative for COVID-19 on arrival, as well, 48 hours prior to your HKG flight departure. You also have to be tested in Canada, at your crew base, to show you are negative. Anyone who is awarded an HKG flight will be scheduled by Crew Scheduling to have a COVID-19 test completed at an Air Canada medical office. Operating crew will be contacted by Crew Scheduling and advised of the testing appointment time. We are monitoring the times, wait times, and crew reports as they come in and appreciate the constant communication on this. It helps us to raise concerns with the employer if issues arise.
Component Officers Meet and Greet
On July 30, 2020, the Component Officers hosted a live webinar for all active and inactive, Mainline or Rouge members. The webinar had an option where questions could be asked, and answers provided on various topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hosted another webinar for our members being recalled to Rouge this month. We were impressed with the feedback and were glad to hear from the 600 plus members. It is clear that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have found new ways to communicate. It appears so far that the Webinars are certainly well received. We will be planning more in the future as required and again thank everyone for their attendance and patience as we worked through the large list of questions.
Mandatory Temperature Screening – Canadian Airports
Mandatory temperature screening commenced on July 30, 2020 for anytime you go through security in YVR, YYC, YYZ and YUL. Temperature screenings have also expanded to other airports, within Canada and Worldwide. We do have calls with Transport Canada weekly, and as is often the case, more needs to be done to adequately maintain out safety at work. Temperature screening is a very basic practise, and not a guarantee that travellers are COVID free. We have received minimal feedback on this but do encourage you to write in with any comments.
COVID-19 Exposure Flights – Releases
We have had a recent spike in COVID-19 confirmed passengers onboard. We believe that this is primarily due to the vast supply of testing available to our customers. As a reminder, when you have a COVID Positive passenger onboard, you will be notified by a manager, as well receive an email from the Union. Please ensure the Union has your updated email address, if you need to update it, please send an email to email@example.com and we will have it actioned immediately.
A few members have been writing in and asking questions on the Air Transat “merger”. At this time, the Union has no further information on what this would look like, how it would work or when it may happen. As the industry has changed immensely, and the variables of a merger are always stressful, it is important to note that we have a Collective Agreement in full effect, it covers all Mainline and Rouge members, laid off or active. Anything that would need to change, be voted on, altered or negotiated would come to the members prior to any agreement from your Union. Please note, as mentioned above, we will keep you all posted as more information comes, but do not believe there is anything to come within the next few months.
The subject of the B737 has not come up in a few months. Once the company has an action plan on how they will move it forward, what that will involve and what information they have to share, we will ensure we update you.
Recent RBP Awards and COVID-19 Leaves
With the recent RBP awards posted this week, many members were surprised and dismayed that the employer would not offer additional RBPs for the masses while we have thousands of members laid off, at home, pending a recall. This certainly would have boosted morale, made life easier for many, and ensured that those that needed time to take medical appointments, quarantine for family members and take time to recharge, would have it. We appreciate the company must be focussed on the bottom line, and maintaining profit where they can, but we also truly believed there would have been a bit of good will by honoring a few extra RBPs at a time when our members needed it the most.
This also brings us to COVID-19 Leaves. The COVID-19 Leave provision set out in the Canada Labour Code is of limited duration and is set to cease (be repealed) October 1, 2020. At such time the Federal Government is looking into other programs to assist all in this time. We have heard from many members over the weekend that have been denied this leave with no further options given. Some are questioning future employment with Air Canada, and others are contemplating other choices for the short term.
If you are denied a COVID-19 Leave, and you are in a position that renders you unable to work due to COVID-19 (childcare, compromised health etc.) please reach out to your manager. Request a leave in writing and if this is denied please reach out to your local Union. You should not be placed in a position where you are contemplating your 20-year career with this company over a leave. We do not want people to resign over the denial of a leave. We will attempt to work with the employer on this as needed and required.
Quick reminder, as the company is recalling to Air Canada Rouge, and these recalls are to a place that is not one’s point of layoff, there are those that are declining. Due to the fact that members are declining, the company is issuing further recalls. Please ensure you watch your Air Canada Email. Please note the Company also sends a FEDEX letter to your door. It is imperative that you have an updated address noted with both the employer and your Union. You can always verify your address through your pay statement, if its not correct on the statement, ensure you update it.
In closing, I want to truly say I am so impressed with the constant flow of communication from the membership at this time. We are hearing from so many of you, from all walks, all ages, all bases and each airline. It is truly impressive to see. There is so much going on and it is so important for us to know that each of you have a voice and that it is heard and respected. Please continue to reach out, ask questions and verify rumors. We are all in this together and will remain strong and knowledgeable as long as there is communication.
Reach out anytime, and stay safe,
President, Air Canada Component of CUPE