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Ryan: Time to chase Air Canada piggies away from trough

May 9, 2012, Toronto - In light of recent labour strife at Air Canada, Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, posted this open letter in several prominent newspapers.


May 9, 2012
By Ontario Federation of Labour

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Imagine the outrage of Canadians who heard the news yesterday that top Air Canada honchos are heaping increases by the spoonful on their multi-million dollar compensation plates. This news comes to Canadians only days before talks are set to resume with two unions representing Air Canada employees and after a year in which you used the full legislative power of first your majority government to help Air Canada quash the fair wage and benefit demands of workers by eliminating basic labour rights.

Air Canada's employees have lived lean and made tremendous sacrifices over the past 10 years to help the company weather stormy skies and get back to prosperity. In 2004, Air Canada flight attendants agreed to a 20 percent wage and benefit roll-back to help keep the company solvent. It amounted to an $8,000 annual donation to the company from each worker that has compounded to roughly $70,000 in lost earnings. Similar concessions have been made over the years by pilots, passenger service agents, baggage handlers and machinists – all in the service of the survival of the airline.

How then can you not share the disgust of Canadians in the face of today's news that Air Canada will be holding the line on CEO Calin Rovinescu's $1.4 million salary and $4 million total compensation package, while dramatically boosting the million-dollar bonuses and compensation plans for the company's top executives.

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No doubt, your government's decision to strip Air Canada workers of their democratic rights and force further wage, benefit and pension concessions was motivated by the poverty pleas of Air Canada executives. When you did so, you said that Canadian jobs and prosperity were at stake. But today's news puts to lie these claims and exposes the worst excesses of corporate greed. The tremendous sacrifices made by Air Canada's dedicated workers are not helping keep the company in the air they are feeding the insatiable appetites of every Air Canada executive whose nose is stuck in the trough.

It is time for your government to step in to defend the jobs of regular Canadians and send a clear signal to every greedy CEO in the private or public sector that the buffet is closed. After all, you are the Prime Minister of Canada, not Air Canada.

Sincerely,

Sid Ryan, President

Ontario Federation of Labour