Save Canadian Jobs, #SaveCanadianAviation
By: Tim Perry, ALPA Canada President
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores last year, the Air Line Pilots Association Canada (ALPA Canada) took action. We coordinated tirelessly with our airlines’ leaders and government officials to ensure not just the health, safety, and wellbeing of our flight crews, but also our passengers and Canadians in communities from coast to coast to coast. One year later, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented the Canadian airline industry with an unprecedented, existential crisis, and our government has failed us.
The aviation sector is a critical part of Canada’s economy that facilitates both local and international commerce, plays an instrumental role in tourism, and ensures the free movement of people and cargo throughout our vast and diverse country and around the world. Before COVID-19, the industry employed more than 141,000 Canadians with an economic footprint of $50 billion, which supported millions of other good jobs—and families—throughout the country.
Unfortunately, the government has failed to respond adequately to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on Canada’s aviation sector. As the government continues to procrastinate, the industry grows more vulnerable, and jobs continue to disappear.
At Air Transat, the employment status of nearly 5,000 highly skilled workers remains unknown. In addition to failing to mitigate the fallout from the pandemic, our government spent 18 months deliberating over the pending sale of this airline to another industry competitor, which only added more uncertainty.
Almost 10,000 WestJet careers also remain in limbo, with only 4,800 employees remaining on staff, compared to the 14,000 employed just 12 months ago. Hundreds of additional layoffs have been announced for April 1.
With all these jobs on the line, our government has failed to provide much-needed assistance to stabilize the airline industry and has yet to show any signs of even contemplating, much less releasing, a realistic plan that recognizes aviation’s integral role in a successful recovery of this nation’s economy.
The government fails to recognize that Canadian airlines play a critical role in maintaining important economic lifelines across our country. “Strict on travel” may be good politics, but it is bad policy. It ignores issues we will need to face for Canadians to travel safely in the future, which makes planning for success nearly impossible.
The government is also unwilling to collaborate with leading aviation industry stakeholders, such as ALPA Canada, and is ignoring many well-articulated and science-based recommendations. Through research and our relationships with civil aviation organizations, regulators, and governments around the world, we know that aviation sector recovery depends on certain key factors, including partnerships with all industry participants, targeted financial support with certain worker protections, and an evolution of Canada’s COVID-19 testing and quarantine measures.
Our broader organization, the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), is the largest pilot union in the world with more than 59,000 airline pilot members at 35 airlines in the United States and Canada—including Air Transat, WestJet, and Jazz Aviation—and is also the largest nongovernmental aviation safety organization in the world. Since 1931, we’ve negotiated and defended collective labour agreements, and we have been the driving force behind countless systemic improvements that have made commercial air travel in the United States and Canada the safest mode of transportation in the world. We are an invaluable resource with a history of success through collaboration, and our government must recognize this.
This inaction leaves the aviation sector—and inextricably, Canada’s economic recovery—in jeopardy. The time for government assistance is long past due. The industry and its dedicated workers need direct support now.
Please join us today in telling our government that there is no more time to waste. Mr. Trudeau needs to keep his promise to provide assistance to our industry now, before it’s too late. ALPA Canada members, our colleagues throughout the industry, Canadians across the country, and our national economy all depend on it.