David Chartrand, Quebec Coordinator for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW)
This article was published in Les Ailes du Québec
If the sacrifices of aviation industry workers are a necessary evil in these times of pandemic, the Trudeau government’s inaction towards them only worsens the side effects.
It has been said for almost a year now; the government must put in place a sectoral assistance plan for our airline industry or it may not be able to recover from this pandemic. Today, forced to impose flight restrictions to protect the public, without an assistance plan to minimize its negative impacts, the Trudeau government has just pushed our Airline industry and all its workers to the brink.
Since the spring of 2020, only job losses seem to be accumulating as quickly as bad news in the airline industry. Internationally, forty airlines have placed themselves under the protection of the Creditor Arrangement Act. In response, all G7 countries, with the exception of Canada, have put forward a strategic plan for their aviation sector.
Yet the situation is just as alarming in Canada as it is elsewhere. From January 2020 to January 2021, the number of daily flights at Canadian airports went from an average of 140,000 per day to 9,000. At Air Canada alone, this slowdown has left more than 20,000 workers furloughed or laid off.
While it is increasingly likely that some Canadian carriers will use the federal creditors act if an assistance plan does not come soon, the Trudeau government continues to be asleep at the wheel. However, it is certainly well known that the plan to return to profitability of companies that use this law is mainly on the backs of workers. This means attempting cuts to pension plans, wages, benefits and possibly job relocation. Because of its immobility and lack of vision, the federal government would be the main culprit for the misfortunes of workers from coast to coast to coast.
At Canadian airports since March, workers have been taking blows with courage in the hope that the assistance plan announced several times by federal ministers will finally arrive. However, the news of the past few weeks has hurt, and courage has been replaced by frustration and disillusionment. Aware that aviation is one of the economic levers that will enable us to quickly and sustainably lift our economy from this crisis, these workers do not understand why their government is unable to move from words to action. They are willing to work to rebuild our economy, but it remains to be seen whether the Trudeau government is also?
Who we are?
The IAMAW is Canada’s leading aerospace and airline union with more than 22,000 members working in these sectors.
We represent members of Air Canada, Sunwing, Air Transat, Swissport, British Airways, Garda World, G4S, Menzies Aviation, AAS, ATS, Sky Café and others. We are also the world’s largest aerospace union with more than 184,000 members and 1,000 collective agreements in Canada and the United States.