Sunday, July 20, 2008
FLIGHT ATTENDANTS FIGHT BACK:
Air Canada has recently announced its intention to terminate the jobs of more than 639 flight attendants operating out of Halifax and Winnipeg. The trouble is that the company has to violate the law to do this. Surely "no problem" for the present Conservative government in Ottawa who have little respect for the law when it interfers with profit. But they can be pressured to obey their own laws. Here's an appeal from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) asking you to petition Ottawa to turn down the request from Air Canada.
Tell Air Canada to respect the law Exigez qu’Air Canada respecte la Loi:
(Le francais suit l'anglais.)
Air Canada has announced plans to terminate more than 629 flight attendants and permanently close its flight attendant bases in Halifax and Winnipeg.
Meanwhile, Robert Milton and Air Canada President Montie Brewer are trying to enlist the federal government as a partner in this venture. Air Canada has asked Ottawa for a special exemption from the law so the airline can short change the flight attendants who will lose their jobs.
Air Canada believes that a family flight pass is adequate compensation for the loss of a job with no possibility of recall for employees with as much as 30 years of service. Please take a moment to urge Ottawa to turn down this request. Visit http://cupe.ca/action/respect-the-law .
Please take action right away. A decision on Air Canada’s request is due any day now. Once you have sent your message, please forward this note to your friends and contacts.
Air Canada a rendu public son projet de mettre à pied plus de 629 agents de bord et de fermer pour de bon ses bases d’agents de bord de Winnipeg et de Halifax.
Entretemps, Robert Milton et Montie Brewer essaient de recruter le gouvernement fédéral comme complice dans cette entreprise. Air Canada a demandé à Ottawa d’être exemptée des exigences du Code canadien du travail pour pouvoir escroquer les agents de bord qui perdront leur emploi.
Air Canada considère qu’une passe de vol familiale constitue une compensation adéquate pour la perte d’un emploi sans possibilité de rappel pour des employés qui peuvent avoir jusqu’à trente ans de service.
Nous vous prions de prendre un moment pour sommer Ottawa de ne pas céder à la demande d’Air Canada. Visitez notre site: http://scfp.ca/action/respectez-la-loi
Nous vous demandons de vous mobiliser maintenant. La réponse à la demande d’Air Canada est attendue d’un jour à l’autre. Quand vous aurez écrit au ministre et à votre député, nous vous prions de transmettre cette lettre à vos amis et collègues.
THE LOCAL CONNECTION:
Many of the jobs that are due to be eliminated are from here in Winnipeg. Local Winnipeg Free Press columnist Golrdon Sinclair has taken up this question. Here is his first article on the matter from the July 11 edition of the Free Press.
Flight attendants deserve better
Face of Air Canada labelled as 'surplus':
Gordon Sinclair Jr.
Being the bearer of bad news comes with the job, but I'd never delivered it quite the way I did Thursday.
Actually, the last time I rang the front door bell of my neighbour, an Air Canada flight attendant, it was in gratitude.
Kathy Courtney got bad news Thursday.
I was dropping off a box of Bernard Callebaut chocolates as my way of saying thanks to Kathy Courtney, who had recognized me as a Linden Woods neighbour and treated me especially graciously on a flight home to Winnipeg.
This time I arrived at Kathy's front door in sympathy.
A Fed-Ex envelope in hand.
The envelope -- and the bad news therein -- hand been stuffed in her mailbox, which I just happened to see before she did.
"That's probably the letter," Kathy said, as I handed it to her at the front door.
The official letter -- couriered overnight to all 145 of the Winnipeg-based Air Canada flight attendants -- confirmed what a colleague in Toronto had already told her the day before.
"We are writing you today," senior Air Canada director Stephen Knowles' letter began, "to confirm the difficult business decision that will close the Winnipeg and Halifax In Flight Service (IFS) cabin crew bases, effective November 1, 2008."
I was going to say "sorry" to Kathy.
But Kathy said sorry first.
She apologized for the messy house.
The 50-year-old mother of two teenage boys explained she had been flying for eight straight days -- her flight to Toronto later Thursday would be make it nine -- and I'd caught her trying to do the laundry and clean the house.
That's not the only reason she was a bit behind on the home front. Kathy had just returned to work in April after being off for a year and a half due to breast cancer.
With 28 years of service -- which puts her in the middle of the seniority list of an extremely long-serving Winnipeg base -- she and the rest could survive the collective bad news.
They could fly standby to work in Toronto where they would probably end up having to share the rent with other cabin crew in a "crash-pad" apartment. Complete with mattresses on the floor, which Kathy said is already happening.
"It could be done," Kathy said. "But there's not much space flying out of Winnipeg. And there are flight attendants who are single mothers and for them, I don't know what they're going to do."
There's another possibility.
The Winnipeg-based flight attendants could simply move to Toronto. But that's not likely.
"Everyone who's here has chosen to be here," Kathy said.
Actually, years ago, after Kathy's husband, Don, transferred from Toronto to Winnipeg with CP Rail, she didn't want to move to Winnipeg.
Now she can never imagine leaving.
Having flown across Canada, she knows how precious our Winnipeg lifestyle is by comparison.
But she has kids going into university, kids who know this as home.
"I've got to keep working," Kathy said.
Air Canada is citing sky-high fuel prices as the rationale for doing away with the flight attendant base.
But where are the savings in Winnipeg, when the pilots who are staying and the flight attendants who are leaving share the same office space administration support?
The savings, I suspiciously suggest, come in trying to make life so impossible for the seniority-heavy Winnipeg-based flight attendants that they'll simply retire rather than attempt to commute standby to Toronto.
There is one sentence -- one word actually -- that speaks to the attitude that really fuelled the layoffs.
Again it was in that letter from senior Air Canada director Stephen Knowles.
"This decision means that all cabin crew based in Winnipeg and Halifax will be surplus to the operation and subject to layoff as per Article 17 of the Collective Agreement."
You gotta love the oh-so caring language.
I thought that was how you talked about old army gear.
Especially not people who have been the face of Air Canada and spent most of their working lives serving airline and those of us who fly it.
People whose lives have just been relegated to standby.
And here's the second article from the July 19th edition of the Free Press.
Message to Air Canada: We're ready for a fight:
Gordon Sinclair Jr.
It's interesting how people react when they're treated like people.
Last week, I wrote a column that featured my neighbour Kathy Courtney, a mother of two teenage boys and an Air Canada flight attendant.
I spoke with her the day after she had formally been told that, along with 300 flight attendant layoffs in Vancouver, the Winnipeg and Halifax flight-attendant bases would be closing come November.
In its official notification, Air Canada referred to the hundreds of affected flight attendants as "surplus."
As if they were disposable pieces of equipment, instead of long-serving and valued employees -- and people.
Air Canada blamed sky-high fuel prices for the "difficult" decision. The flight attendants' union believes it's simply a convenient excuse for ridding Air Canada of higher-salaried senior staff who won't be bothered to relocate to Toronto, or attempt to fly standby to work there.
Kathy's story -- she had only recently returned to work after being off for two years battling breast cancer -- inspired colleagues from across the country to speak out themselves.
I have chosen to withhold some of the names of current Air Canada employees.
* * *
FROM HALIFAX. . .
I am an Air Canada flight attendant in Halifax with 30 years of seniority.
It is cold comfort to the dedicated employees at Winnipeg and Halifax (and the 300 in Vancouver) to be referred to as SURPLUS. We will all have to commute to Toronto and bump the most junior flight attendants who are there. This will greatly affect the personal lives of many employees and their families, and may have unforeseen negative repercussions for Air Canada's bottom line. Remember that the junior employees in Toronto, who will ultimately pay the price for this, are also the lowest paid of Air Canada's 7,000 flight attendants (about $19,000 per year). I think I understand the realities of the new financial environment but I disagree with the assumption that the company will save money by closing these crew bases. I suspect there are other reasons behind Air Canada's decision.
* * *
FROM TORONTO. . .
I am a flight attendant in Toronto but have very fond memories of living in Winnipeg. I was forced to move there in the late '80s coming back from a layoff. I loved the city, the people, the lake and all that it had to offer. I returned home and left Winnipeg behind. Sometimes I wonder if I should have stayed.
My brother and his wife are both flight attendants in Halifax. They can commute (fly standby) to Toronto and stay with me, but like Winnipeg, it is a tough, stressful commute. They have teenage children who will be attending university so they will need to keep working. I really am worried about them. Thanks for showing the empathy and caring the company cannot.
* * *
I cried when I read your article.
I am a Vancouver-based flight attendant with Air Canada and we are still all in shock from the news. The trickle-down effect will hurt everyone not just the YWG (Winnipeg) and YHG (Halifax) flight attendants.
We are all still reeling.
It's nice to know that people out there care.
* * *
.. Unlike Kathy, I have only worked 10 years for this company. All the while, I have been treated as only a number in the system and not a person. When I read the company's announcement of layoffs and their use of the word surplus, it didn't even move me. You see, for us it is so commonplace to be treated so impersonally, it no longer fazes us. I can tell you, the use of such a word escaped most of us. It was not until I read your article that I came to a shocking realization: They see us as only numbers, they consider us surplus, and that is why we are so easily disposable in their minds. Thank you for reminding me not to accept the use of such language to define my role as a worker, and for taking the time to tell this very moving story. I hope it brings the point across to your readers about the very human face of those affected by this terrible turn of events.
* * *
FROM A RETIRED FLIGHT ATTENDANT
... I started my career as a flight attendant in Winnipeg (1970) and I am shocked to hear this sad news. Some of my former colleagues still are flying and I am in disbelief. I hope that your comments will underscore how unfair this is especially in light of the fact that the pilots have been allowed to be based there and the costs can be shared. With only 145 flight attendants left (in Winnipeg) it would be a classier act to allow them to fly out their careers. However, in the past few years Air Canada continues to treat their employees with no respect or sensitivity. I am thankful that I retired two years ago. The history of the Winnipeg base is rich and with the merger of Air Canada and its cousins in the industry, Trans Air, Pacific Western and CP, this base closure is an insult to the many years that those employees have invested. At least with support from the media and the public, if Winnipeg base goes down in flames it will be noticed with due respect.
Gerry May (formerly Taillieu)
* * *
The Winnipeg and Halifax flight attendant bases don't have to go down in flames.
The union is fighting the closures.
And you can try to help save them by contacting your member of Parliament and voicing your concern.
The web address to send a message to your MP is:
It seems that flight or fight has taken on a whole new meaning.
Sorta says it all- Molly