HR News Update

Air Canada to lay off 632 flight attendants

The union representing Air Canada's flight attendants said its members are bearing a disproportionate burden as Canada's largest airline announced 632 in-flight workers in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax will lose their jobs in November as it chops capacity in the face of soaring fuel costs.

"The numbers are even more than what they announced three weeks ago and it just seems we are definitely taking the biggest hit of the groups," Nick Beveridge, vice-president components of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said in an interview.

CUPE was informed of the job cuts Wednesday during a meeting in Toronto.

The move comes after Air Canada announced plans to cut its capacity by seven per cent and lay off 2,000 employees. Its regional feeder Jazz Air responded by cutting 270 jobs.

The decrease in international long-haul flights from Vancouver will result in a reduction of 300 flight attendants based in the western gateway.

Air Canada will also close its flight attendant bases in Winnipeg and Halifax, effective Nov. 1. The decision will result in 145 job losses in Winnipeg and 187 in Halifax.

Many of these employees are senior workers with 20 to 40 years of service and earning top wages.

"It's devastating for these people. They have a long-standing membership in the community so it's a huge blow," Beveridge said from Toronto.

The union will push to improve the airline's offer to encourage the voluntary departure of flight attendants.

Air Canada has offered a $10,000 inducement for employees at the two bases to quit. Options available for workers in Vancouver include leaves of absence and lifetime standby travel passes.

But Beveridge said the airline's incentives are inadequate. The union will push for increased job sharing and other steps to fully mitigate the layoffs.

Airline spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said the decision to close the bases was not made lightly.

"However, following a close review it was determined that due to the changing nature of our domestic flying over the past five years, it was no longer viable to base in-flight crews at these two locations," she said Thursday.

The bases have become less efficient as more flight attendants in the two cities have to travel to other base locations to start their work day.

Arthur said the airline will meet with Canadian Union of Public Employee representatives to determine bumping and mitigation options that will be made available according to the collective agreement.

Town hall meetings with managers are planned to discuss employee concerns and answer questions.

The layoff of flight attendants comes as the former Air Canada Technical Services maintenance division announced the immediate layoff of 650 employees, because of deferred repair work at its largest customer and the conclusion of overhauls to two aircraft models.

Air Canada shares, which have fallen by 58 per cent in the past year, lost 50 cents, or 7.94 per cent to $5.80 Thursday afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange.  

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