Arbitrator Rules on Air Canada Flight Attendants Adjustment Program

    OTTAWA, Sept. 16 /CNW Telbec/ - Air Canada flight attendants are feeling
let down by the ruling of an Arbitrator assigned to help mitigate the effects
of company plans to close attendant bases and terminate hundreds of jobs.
    According to the union, the ruling of the arbitrator will only soften the
blow of layoffs for a small number of attendants. "The majority of the
attendants get virtually nothing to help them cope with the life changes they
now have to deal with," according to Lesley Swann, President of the Air Canada
Component of CUPE.
    The union had argued for severance for example, for laid off workers.
Arbitrator Brian Keller did not award a severance package for flight
attendants opting to leave the airline, nor any supplemental income program
paid by the employer for those willing to stay.
    The financial resources available for the flight attendants affected by
the cuts and closures will provide minimal relocation support, some commuting
assistance and a job sharing option, but not for all those choosing to stay
with the airline.
    On July 10th, Air Canada management notified flight attendants that they
are "redundant" and "surplus" and would be laid off in November. Potentially,
600 of the union's 7,200 members could be affected by the company's action.
    Since then, the union has launched a campaign to fight the cuts and the
closures. Numerous politicians and hundreds of individuals have lobbied
federal officials to intervene on behalf of the flight attendants, and to help
stop the base closures.
    The award does not address the base closure issue and therefore the union
will continue to campaign publicly to keep open the bases in Halifax and

    Attached - Background on the Award

    September 15, 2008
    Air Canada Base Closures and Flight Attendant Layoffs

     Arbitration Award Released for Air Canada and CUPE Flight Attendants
                ... the battle with Air Canada will continue!

    On August 19th an arbitrator was appointed under Division IX of the Canada
Labour Code, to develop an adjustment program to mitigate the effects of
laying off over 500 Air Canada flight attendants. Brian Keller was appointed
the Arbitrator.
    The Arbitrator's award, issued September 14th, basically gives flight
attendants two choices -terminate their employment or stay working on an
adjusted basis. There will be some funds available to help them adjust to the
changes they will experience but overall the airline is only paying
$5.5 million once for an annual cost reduction of $33 million.
    In the union's view, the arbitrator's award somewhat softens the hardship
created by the job cuts and base closures, but still leaves attendants having
to make major choices and adjustments. Arbitrator Keller did not award a
severance package nor any supplemental payments registered with Employment
Insurance for attendants opting to leave the airline. Part of the difficulty
in determining the position of the affected attendants was that the airline
changed its position from declaring the job cuts as permanent to indicating
the layoffs would now be temporary.
    The financial resources available for the approximately 500 flight
attendants affected by the cuts and closures will provide for 40 relocations,
some commuting to work and a job sharing option, but not for all those
choosing to stay with the airline. Those choosing to leave the airline will
have no severance and only minimal support.
    The total cost of the adjustment package will be a maximum of $5.5 million
dollars, for the costs of a job sharing arrangement, communing, special
leaves, relocation and counselling. The union and the employer are now getting
clarifications from the Arbitrator to know exactly what will be done next and
what flight attendants will specifically get if they leave or stay with the
    The award does not address the base closure issue and therefore the union
will continue to campaign publicly to keep the bases in Halifax and Winnipeg

    For those attendants willing to stay, there will be:

    Commuter Assistance

    Some financial assistance will be available for affected employees, from
Halifax, Winnipeg and Vancouver, who are forced to commute. They may claim
part of the cost of some travel to their assignments. The parties are to
consult on the most effective way of implementing this new arrangement.

    Relocation benefits

    Some relocation benefits will be offered to ten homeowners and ten renters
in each of Halifax and Winnipeg. They are to be chosen in order of seniority.
A homeowner package is worth a $35,000 and for renter it is $15,000.

    Job sharing

    300 'mini-blocks' or shared blocks of flying are to be offered as soon as
possible; 100 in Vancouver and 200 in Toronto. This program is not to continue
for longer than 36 months. The parties are ordered to cooperate in a request
to the Human Resources Development Canada to have this job sharing approved as
a workforce adjustment program eligible for supplemental EI benefits.

    Special Leaves of Absence

    A maximum of 200 special leaves are to be offered to the flight
attendants. The number of leaves granted will not exceed the number of surplus
at each location after the mini-block program. If more than 200 leaves are
required to mitigate the effects of lay-off at each location, after the
mini-block program, the number may be increased to meet the need, on mutual
consent of the parties.
    The minimum duration of any leave is to be three months, the maximum
duration 36 months, a maximum of fifty 24 month leaves and twenty-five
36 month leaves may be taken (unless the parties otherwise agree), leaves may
be extended by mutual consent of the employer and the employee, leaves cannot
be cancelled by the employee except by mutual consent of the parties following
the written request of the employee and the employer may at any time solicit
volunteers to terminate their special leave.
    Seniority, service, pay progression and benefits will continue during the
length of the leave.

    For those attendants choosing to leave Air Canada, there will be:

    Retraining/Career Counselling.

    The employer will give the union $500,000.00, for retraining and
counselling affected employees.

    'Right Of Recall' For Displaced Employees

    Employees from Halifax or Winnipeg, who bump to another base, shall have
preference for recall if either one or both those bases are reopened within
five years. For the next five years, employees from the Vancouver base who
bump to another base will have preference for recall to any position at the
Vancouver base that becomes vacant by reason of normal attrition or
    For the next five years, displaced employees at any of the three bases
will have preference for any vacancies that become available, and need to be
filled, at the remaining open bases.

For further information:

For further information: Lesley Swann, President Air Canada Component
CUPE, (416) 809-2577; Daniela Scarpelli, CUPE National Representative, (416)
458 0588; Dennis Lewycky, CUPE Communications, (204) 333-5065

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