Canada's airline workers continue to be devastated by lack of direct financial aid to sector
While the unions were initially encouraged by the Minister of Transport's public commitment on November 8, 2020 to work with airlines on developing and finalizing an aid package, and a subsequent acknowledgement from the Finance Minister in the Fall Economic Update, airline workers are concerned that, now entering our 10th week, no indication has been given that aid is forthcoming.
The Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA), the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Unifor and the Canadian Airline Dispatchers Association (CALDA) collectively represent more than 300,000 Canadian workers, many of which have already been laid off or furloughed.
Given this lack of aid, it was disturbing to learn that other state-sponsored international airlines were able to avail themselves of both governmental aid in their home jurisdiction as well as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for their Canadian-based employees.
While the extended CEWS program – an employer-directed program – has provided some measure of job protection for Canadian airline workers, we have seen thousands of layoffs in this sector and a disproportionately large number of furloughed aviation workers, notwithstanding the CEWS.
The harsh reality is that airlines are extremely capital-intensive operations with a high cash-burn rate and the requirement to preserve liquidity to maintain equipment, routes, and staff. This reality is not considered under the CEWS, and it is a clear indication that more federal government support is required.
While the government's move to support foreign carriers may technically fall within the rules of the CEWs program, it represents an additional blow to the domestic carriers and the entire aviation industry. It should be a very clear matter of public policy that Canada should place the needs of our country and our airlines first.
That this has not occurred is made worse by the fact that many of these foreign carriers have already received direct bailouts from the governments of their respective countries." said Jerry Dias, President, Unifor.
"Canada's airlines are a critical element of Canada's infrastructure, including essential travel and transport of COVID-19 vaccines and other critical items such as PPE. Asking Canada's airlines and airline workers to keep this vital infrastructure operational during this current crisis period without significant federal support is untenable," said Rob Giguere, CEO, ACPA.
"On behalf of thousands of airline workers across the country, we urge the incoming Minister of Transport and the airlines to do whatever it takes to come to a deal so they can support Canadian aviation workers in the same way other countries have done." ■