The following press release was issued this morning:
Air Canada is taking federal dollars and running, leaving thousands of workers behind: CUPE
The union representing 9,000 flight attendants at Air Canada says the airline is pocketing federal wage supports to pad their bottom line, and leaving thousands of its employees behind.
Air Canada announced an additional 1,400 layoffs on January 13, including 700 active flight attendants at Air Canada Mainline and a further 100 at Air Canada Rouge who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), on top of thousands of others who have been laid off since the pandemic rocked the industry in March 2020.
Despite months of contending with the airline that all members laid off should receive the weekly Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) – which is the stated purpose of the CEWS – Air Canada contends that only those still on active duty, who represent a fraction of the company’s actual workforce, will be used to access this subsidy.
“The CEWS was created so workers have a job to return to as the economy rebounds. Why is Air Canada refusing free money to help the workers who built this company keep their jobs?” asked Wesley Lesosky, President of the Air Canada Component of CUPE. “And why is the government allowing Air Canada to take the wage subsidy and run, padding their bottom line and leaving behind thousands of their employees?”
Air Canada is the only major airline in Canada that is denying access to the CEWS for its inactive workforce. WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing have all continued access to the program since spring 2020 because they know it is the right thing to do for their employees and their families.
“The entire purpose of the CEWS was to help companies avoid sweeping mass layoffs,” continued Lesosky. “But Air Canada wants to have their cake and eat it too, by taking the subsidy and still laying us off. It’s an absolute travesty that the federal government is letting them get away with it. Why has the federal government allowed large corporations access to this program, without any conditions to ensure workers that are subject to layoff will be protected?”
Allowing workers to retain their jobs on CEWS allows them to retain important benefits during a pandemic, and it also would allow them to continue to work periodically without penalty – neither of which are possible when workers are laid off and forced onto Employment Insurance.
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Today we issued a statement (see above) calling on the government to fix the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program, which Air Canada has been withholding from the majority of our members who need it. We encourage all members and their families – whether on active duty or not – to send a message to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and to their MP to tell them it’s time to fix CEWS for all workers in Canada. You can use the template below and send it to Minister Freeland (Chrystia.Freeland@parl.gc.ca) and find your own MP’s email address here. Please copy your Union, (email@example.com) – we want to ensure we are getting heard!
We have been working on fixing CEWS since June, but the company, government and local MPs have not heard us, so it is time to turn up the heat. Your voice matters, and your voice must be heard.
Please feel free to personalise this template so it speaks to your individual circumstances and will convey how profoundly affected you have been. Please pass it on and consider assisting a friend in sending theirs too. Our voice has strength in numbers.
[ MESSAGE TEMPLATE ]
Dear Minister Freeland
I am an Air Canada flight attendant. I am writing to urge you to act immediately to fix the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) so that major employers like my own can no longer manipulate this subsidy to support their own bottom line. In the process they are leaving thousands of workers behind.
As you know, the CEWS was created so that companies could avoid a mass layoff of their employees due to COVID-19. Instead of honouring the intent of the program, Air Canada is taking whatever free money it can and still laying off four out of five flight attendants at our airline.
Air Canada is the only major airline in Canada that is denying access to the CEWS for its inactive workforce. WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing have all continued to give their furloughed employees access to the program since spring 2020 – because they know it is the right thing to do for their employees and their families.
Allowing workers like me to keep a connection to my job while we wait out the pandemic means I can continue accessing my benefits. It means I can work periodically without penalty. Furthermore, it means that once this is all over, I can go back to work as a highly trained in-flight safety professional in an industry where safety expertise and experience are paramount and valued.
Please tell Air Canada to stop abusing this program and abusing their workers. It’s time to do the right thing.
[ INSERT YOUR NAME HERE ]
President, Air Canada Component of CUPE