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Unions balk at Air Transat staffing plans

April 9, 2014, Montreal - The generally harmonious relationship between Air Transat and its employees is not only fraying, but in danger of collapsing altogether.


April 9, 2014
By The Montreal Gazette

The union representing the carrier’s 440 pilots has filed three
grievances totalling more than $3 million against the company for what
it considers breaches of their collective agreement.

 

And at
meetings in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver this week, flight attendants
voted down company proposals to staff aircraft that Transat licences
from Halifax-based operator CanJet Airlines. The company wants to use
Air Transat personnel — pilots and cabin crew — on those CanJet planes.

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The
two charter operators have long had a licensing agreement under which
CanJet provided more than a dozen

Boeing 737s, an aircraft type Transat
did not operate, on a year-round or seasonal basis for thinner routes.

 

But
the two failed to reach a renewal agreement last year and Transat
instead announced it would launch its own fleet of about a dozen 737s.

 

Air
Transat employees also made financial and contract concessions to help
the company through hard times as it began hemorrhaging cash in 2012.

 

Transat,
however, has yet to deploy most of its own fleet. In fact, it renewed a
limited partnership with CanJet recently for one B737 for the year and
another for the winter season — in effect, one-and-a half planes.

 

But
one inside source, who declined to be identified, said that flight
attendants have no assurance — even from their union leadership — that
Air Transat crews will staff those aircraft.

 

The so-called wet
lease from CanJet — meaning pilots are included with the plane — was
announced by Air Transat about five weeks ago, the source said.

 

“That was done before Air Transat has gotten its own aircraft.”

 

“The
company held the votes to modify our collective agreement. The proposal
was for a certain number of flight attendants, pursers and flight
directors. But they could not confirm to us that (these crews) would be
exclusively from Air Transat, as our agreement states. (Union president
Peter Buzzell) was asked twice, and he could not confirm it, either.”

 

Buzzell did not return calls over several days seeking comment.

 

Patrice
Roy, chairman of the master executive council of Air Transat’s chapter
of the Air Line Pilots Association, said that his union has filed three
grievances, one regarding Canjet, and two more serious ones concerning
Calgary’s

Enerjet, a charter operator launched in 2008 by a co-founder
of WestJet Airlines.

 

That airline also flies routes for Transat
out of Alberta and British Columbia, but in clear violation, Roy said,
of the pilots’ contract that states that only Air Transat can operate
flights designated as TS — Air Transat’s proprietary call-sign.

 

“They have no right to do this, they don’t have the licence for it,” said Roy.

 

“They
did ask us (the pilots’) permission to do this, but it turned out they
had already signed the contract with Enerjet to do it.”

 

Enerjet did not return calls immediately.

 

Transat
spokeswoman Debbie Cabana did not return calls, but said in an email
late Friday that gathering information would take time.

 

In a memo
to employees obtained by The Gazette, Air Transat general manager
Jean-François Lemay said that “while I understand the frustrations, I
would ask that our flight deck crew personnel (and those of our cabin
crew personnel who have expressed their dissatisfaction) to see this
contract for what it actually is: the only way for us to train all of
the cabin crews we will need to operate our permanent and seasonal
B737s.”