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On April 1, flight attendants and flight directors, members of the Toronto base of Air Transat, CUPE Local 4047, made their final repatriation flights, bringing Canadians back to the country due to the pandemic. The 740 members in Toronto, who are being laid off on April 5, are currently voting on a plan to secure health care benefits, calling for immediate income support, and advocating for further reliefs tailored to airline workers.
“A lot of us are in trouble,” said Charlie Ezerzer, president of Local 4047, referencing the layoffs and the immediate financial challenges most of the members are facing.
In addition to CUPE members in Toronto, the airline is based in Montreal and Vancouver. Those members, who are also being laid off on April 5, live in provinces where residents can rely on immediate financial support that’s separate from employment insurance and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
“In B.C. people can get a rent subsidy and in Quebec you can get financial support even if you don’t qualify for federal assistance, but Ontario has nothing,” said Ezerzer, echoing the call CUPE Ontario has made for immediate financial support from the provincial government of at least $2,000 that’s separate from and in addition to the federal government’s recently-announced $2,000/month benefit.
“We need to see direct support for the people who provide the frontline services that people rely on everyday – especially in a time of crisis,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “These workers deserve the same kind of support their colleagues in other provinces can access. The Ford conservatives can and must support all Ontarians and refuse to leave anyone behind.”
Ezerzer says the airline workers were early supporters of safety measures, with flight attendants fighting for the right to wear gloves, masks, and to have minimal contact with passengers.
“Some flight attendants have tested positive for COVID-19,” said Ezerzer, adding that over 400 members have had to go into isolation. “Flight attendants are frontline workers as well. And yet we haven’t been treated the same.”
“We’re not getting immediate financial support and the federal wage subsidy that keeps workers on the payroll doesn’t do us any good right now because we’re shutting down,” said Ezerzer. “We join our union in pressuring the provincial government and federal government to make access programs equal to all.”