OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 05/28/13 -- As predicted by CUPE, the Conservative government's decision to approve an application by WestJet to reduce the number of flight attendants on its aircrafts is setting a dangerous precedent for passenger safety with every airline operating in Canada. On the heels of WestJet, Air Canada has now also applied to Transport Canada to allow one flight attendant per 50 passenger seats on North American flights, a profit-making move criticized by CUPE National President Paul Moist and CUPE Airline Division President Michel Cournoyer.
"Granting an exemption to Air Canada, WestJet or any other Canadian air carrier is not in the public interest because it compromises the safety levels currently in place at the ratio of one flight attendant per 40 passenger seats," said Moist. "In an emergency, all flight attendants play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of passengers."
"The government acted far too hastily in taking this unilateral action with regard to WestJet, and we are asking federal Minister of Transport Denis Lebel not to approve Air Canada's application for an exemption until our union representing that carrier's 6,500 flight attendants has had an opportunity to review the related documentation and to present its case," added Cournoyer.
"The federal government is responsible for starting this dangerous domino effect when it comes to passenger safety, and it needs to put a stop to it before other Canadian air carriers start following suit," said Moist. "CUPE's opinion is that the ratio of one flight attendant to every 40 passengers has been shown to work and should apply to everyone."
CUPE represents more than 10,000 flight attendants employed by Air Canada, Air Transat, Calm Air, Canadian North, Canjet, Cathay Pacific, First Air and Sun Wing.
Attached is a copy of the letter forwarded by Paul Moist, CUPE national president, and Michel Cournoyer, CUPE Airline Division president, to Denis Lebel, federal Minister of Transport.
Dear Minister Lebel:
We are the certified bargaining agent for the flight attendants at Air Canada.
The rights and interests of our members will be directly affected if the Minister exercises his discretion to provide an exemption under section 5.9 (2) of the Aeronautics Act to Air Canada. As such, we are providing notice that our members are entitled to full participatory rights under the common law of procedural fairness. We also assert Charter section 7 rights, and assert Charter values as recognized in Dore v. Barreau du Quebec, 2012 SCC 12, (2012) 1 S.C.R. 395 ("Dore").
On May 6, Transport Canada announced via News Release that it had granted an exemption from the regulations for WestJet to operate its aircraft with a ratio of 1 flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats, rather than the current regulated ratio of one flight attendant for every 40 passengers. That exemption was not made public at the time, including any terms and conditions that may be attached to its issuance. The same May 6 News Release also offered other airlines the opportunity to apply for the same exemption to operate their aircraft with one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats. No details were provided of any terms and conditions that may apply to these exemptions, although it was promised that each airline's request for an exemption would be considered on its own merits.
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