The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) on October 16 released a statement that its internal section overseeing Air Transat learned that the number of its flight attendant union members at the Montreal-based airline will drop to less than 160 in November, from a total of 2,000 employees in normal times. CUPE also reports Air Transat’s Vancouver base will be closed completely until further notice.
In releasing the statement, CUPE also called on the federal government to immediately deploy rapid COVID-19 screening at Canadian airports, which could help the commercial aviation sector start to recover from the ongoing impact of Covid-19.
CUPE’s statement about the Air Transat flight attendant reductions comes less than a week after Transat A. T. announced it had reached a new agreement to be purchased by Air Canada for a price approximately 72 per cent lower than what the two airlines originally settled on back in June 2019. That transaction is to proceed through a court-approved plan of arrangement under the Canada Business Corporations Act, which also includes Transat undertaking a $250 million short-term loan.
Air Transat stopped its commercial transport activities back on April 1, 2020, and resumed flights on July 23. CUPE notes with the resumption of its flights, Air Transat’s number of working flight attendants reached a high of 355 in August.
“All of our information indicates that Air Transat’s resumption of activities in the summer and fall of 2020 was totally safe for passengers and staff,” said Julie Roberts, president of CUPE’s Air Transat component. “A rapid screening system that provides pre-boarding results would be a crucial addition for reviving the airline industry. We sometimes forget that more than 600,000 jobs in Canada depend on this industry, directly or indirectly. What we need is an efficient federal screening program.”
The union also noted that a broad coalition of aviation employees will demonstrate on Parliament Hill at noon on October 20, planning to demand concrete measures from the Government of Canada to ensure the safe recovery of the aviation industry.
Air Transat flight attendants are safety professionals whose primary role is to protect passengers, states CUPE, noting they are divided into three local unions, corresponding to their three bases: CUPE 4041 (Montreal-YUL), CUPE 4047 (Toronto-YYZ) and CUPE 4078 (Vancouver-YVR). The Air Transat component oversees these three local unions.
In total, CUPE represents more than 13,100 members in air transport in Canada, including workers at Air Transat, Air Canada Rouge, Sunwing, CALM Air, Canadian North, WestJet, Cathay Pacific, First Air, and Air Georgian (with Air Georgian ceasing operations in May 2020).