The ongoing, worldwide COVID-19 crisis has forced Canada’s largest airline to make major, temporary layoffs.
“In light of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 global crisis and significantly reduced network, Air Canada has initiated discussions with its unions to begin placing employees on temporary, off-duty status. Employees would be returned to active duty status when we ramp up our network schedule as conditions allow. We do not have final numbers of total employees affected yet or details on timing as we are working through mitigation programs with each union.”
In a note posted on the website for CUPE local 4092, it was stated that 3,600 mainline Air Canada workers and 1,549 Rouge employees have been declared surplus.
“Rouge will in effect have zero flying hours for the month of April 2020,” the union said. “The Company will commence the process of calling members and placing them on “Off Duty Status” as early as within the next 48 hours as outlined in LOU 6. 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. More information will come out from the company on this.”
Layoffs have also been announced for other Canadian airlines, and for airlines around the world, as the virus continues to spread and borders close.
Air Canada’s main unions are:
ACPA – representing approximately 4,380 pilots at Air Canada including at Air Canada Rouge
CUPE – representing approximately 9,750 flight attendants including at Air Canada Rouge
IAM – representing approximately 8,100 technical services, ramp and cargo employees
UNIFOR – representing approximately 5,600 customer sales and service agents
Air Canada and other airlines have seen almost all transborder and international flights and many domestic routes trimmed as borders close and business plummets worldwide.
Air Canada on Wednesday said it will gradually suspend the majority of its international and U.S. transborder flights by March 31, 2020 in response to decisions by national governments, including Canada and the United States, to close borders and restrict commercial aviation as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Subject to further government restrictions, the airline intends to continue to serve a much smaller number of international and U.S. trans-border destinations from select Canadian cities after April 1, 2020. The airline also intends to continue serving all provinces and territories of Canada after that date, albeit with a significantly reduced network.
Comments & Discussion
New United CEO Scott Kirby Comes Out Firing
United Airlines’ Scott Kirby, who took over as CEO last week in the wake of Oscar Munoz’s retirement, is wasting no time establishing his authority.
Kirby cut 13 high-level executives in a cash-saving move on Friday as the coronavirus pandemic has throttled the industry financially. A day earlier, he told an online investor conference that the airline absolutely would not declare bankruptcy, and that he thought flying was safe enough to not block the middle seats on planes from being sold.
Well, he did build a reputation as an open – some might say abrasive – executive while at American Airlines.
Kirby is eliminating 13 of United’s 67 officer positions, all effective on Oct. 1. That’s the day after the restrictions on firing employees runs out per the federal government’s rules for airlines accepting billions of dollars in stimulus package grants and loans.
“While there are glimmers of good news in our July schedule — we expect to be down about 75% versus 90% right now — travel demand is still a very long way from where it was at the end of last year and the financial impact on our business remains severe,” United said in a written statement as reported by CNBC.
The cuts are in response to the loss of nearly 90 percent of business for United and all airlines, as the demand for travel has dropped dramatically compared to last year and beyond.
But Kirby defiantly said during the investor conference a day before that he has no plans for the airline to go bankrupt.
“Zero percent, no chance,” Kirby said. “It’s worse for shareholders. It’s worse for creditors. It’s worse for employees. It’s worse for every constituent that we have.”
To that end, Kirby also said he won’t sacrifice potential sales by blocking middle seats, as some airlines have done. As the blog The Points Guy noted, Kirby said the airline’s cleaning process, air circulation and a requirement for passengers and crew to wear face masks make it a safe experience.
“Airplanes don’t have social distancing — we’re not going to be six feet apart,” he said. “But an airplane environment is incredibly safe.”
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