The sharp decline in flight bookings due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic left Air Canada "no choice" but to go forward with layoffs involving more than 5,000 of its flight attendants.
According to The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents the airline's flight attendants, a total of 3,600 crew members as well as all 1,549 members of the Rouge division will be affected.
“This is unprecedented, and not something any of us want to go through," reads a statement on the union's Facebook page addressed to the airline's workers. "The reality is real, and we are working around the clock ensuring you are represented.”
Renee Smith-Valade, the airline's VP of in-flight service, sent a memo on March 19, saying the move was "difficult but necessary." She also mentioned that as much as 80 percent of booked flights have been canceled after multiple countries implemented directives to keep their citizens home.
The layoffs will remain in effect until at least April 30, and the hope is that they will just be temporary. Affected crew members will still be able to collect employment insurance.
“Off Duty Status allows you to collect employment insurance and maintain benefits, along with travel benefits. The Union’s position is that this option should be offered to all members as we have heard from many senior members that they would like to voluntarily take this option. The company will allow the opportunity for members to volunteer for Off Duty Status."
At this time, Air Canada is gradually suspending the majority of its international flights by the end of March, while a small network of intranational flights between the provinces and territories will continue to operate for the time being.
Photo by Air Canada
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