March 16, 2021 By Jon Victor, The Canadian Press
On the one-year anniversary of increased restrictions on non-essential travel to Canada, union leaders renewed their call for government aid for the country’s struggling aviation sector.
In a press conference organized by Unifor, which represents workers in the aviation industry, union leaders said they were frustrated by the government’s lack of action even after many meetings between union and government officials over the last year.
“We have met with government over a dozen times in the last year — still nothing,” said Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor. “We are asking the government once again to create a national recovery plan for the aviation sector.”
Dias added that scale of the layoffs in the airline sector was unsustainable, noting that the possibility of travel to more remote areas in Canada was being threatened. The industry also needs the government to provide a plan for safely reopening the Canadian border, Dias said.
Doug Best, the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, said Nav Canada, which operates Canada’s civil air navigation system, has already laid off hundreds of employees and continues to cull staff in certain regions, which he said could affect safety and jeopardize the aviation industry’s recovery.
“We’ve heard from our members, the highly skilled and dedicated women and men who work every day to keep our skies safe,” Best said. “They have serious concerns about the safety risks of Nav Canada’s reckless actions.”
Air Canada said in its most recent earnings call in February that bailout talks between the airline and the government had accelerated and that the company expected the parties could reach a deal soon.
Thousands of aviation workers in Canada have been laid off since the start of the pandemic, including many at the beginning of 2021, when Canadian airlines suspended all flights to sun destinations until April 30.