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Thousands of airline workers, including thousands of CUPE members, have already been laid off due to the global outbreak of COVID-19. CUPE national president Mark Hancock, along with the leaders of the Canadian Labour Congress and other unions representing 50,000 airline workers nationwide, wrote to the federal finance and transport ministers on March 24 to demand that any federal relief for the industry must focus first and foremost on workers.
As the federal government begins to target relief to industries that need help to stay afloat in coming months, when it comes to the airline industry, CUPE and Canada’s unions are clear: the government must consult with unions, and put workers at the front of the line to receive support.
“Any proposed relief package from the federal government must be developed in consultation with, and have the consent of, the bargaining agents representing airline workers,” said the letter. “It must maintain and return employees to payroll, protect collective bargaining rights, and come with legal guarantees that financial support from the government will go first to support workers’ wages, salaries, and benefits.”
The letter also notes that, notwithstanding the exceptional and temporary situation facing the airline industry, it is set to expand in the medium term. CUPE and its allies in the labour movement are clear that this should not be a handout with no-strings-attached, and it expects that any public investment into the industry should result in a public stake in the company or companies involved.
“We expect that the federal government will receive an equity stake in exchange for any investment it makes in an airline company.”
CUPE is Canada’s flight attendant union, representing 15,000 workers at nine different airlines across Canada.