April 16th, 2020
LETTER: It is time for Canada to stand up for workers and the public interest of Canadians
Dear Ministers Garneau and Qualtrough,
We write to you urging immediate action to stop Air Canada's inexcusable misuse of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program in ways that take advantage of workers, as well as Air Canada's failure to repatriate planes to Canada so that Canadian workers can get to work.
It is time for Air Canada to act in the public interest. It is time for your government to stand up for workers.
Canadians are paying for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program in good faith. The Prime Minister warned employers to refrain from taking advantage of it, and stated that heavy-handed penalties would be applied to all those who abuse the program. Air Canada is not just grossly misinterpreting the legislation, but is showing blatant disregard for the rules and processes that are part of the wage subsidy program.
We have become aware of troubling reports whereby the majority of aircraft maintenance workers are receiving only the 75% wage subsidy without any top up, which for some, this means less than minimum wage. We have also become aware that Air Canada is blatantly abusing the collective agreement and refusing to call people to work based on seniority. We have been told that workers on the job are not able to accrue vacation or sick time. We have heard that pension plans are not being paid into by the employer. When workers challenge these and other abuses of the collective agreement, they have been told that Air Canada has the right to do this. This is shocking and unacceptable. This is not what Canadian workers or the Canadian public signed up for.
Furthermore, we have been informed that 71 aircraft out of the 148 aircraft belonging to Air Canada that remain parked during this time are parked outside of Canada, the majority of which are in the United States. As you may be aware, aircraft must be moved and maintained every three days, and instead of paying Canadian workers to do the work, Air Canada is paying mostly American companies and contractors to do the job. This is a shocking disregard for Canadian workers and our economy at a time when we should be doing everything possible here at home.
Canadians expect better from Air Canada. Workers employed by Air Canada expect better; it is their commitment and skills that has built Air Canada’s success.
Canadian workers expect your Government to ensure that Air Canada and other employers do not use the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program to circumvent collective agreements and take advantage of workers at the most difficult time and time of crisis. Canadian workers and the Canadian public expect your Government to do everything you can, including to hold employers who are benefiting from public money accountable and to prioritize Canadian jobs and the Canadian economy. Your Government has been elected to act in the interest of the public good, it is your duty and obligation to do just that and put an end to Air Canada’s egregious actions.
We look forward to your swift action on this front.
MP Niki Ashton, Churchill—Keewatinook Aski
MP Scott Duvall, Hamilton Mountain