COVID-19: the federal government is complicit in airline negligence toward health and safety of flight attendants and passengers

From Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

By refusing to immediately compel Canadian airlines to fully comply with the COVID-19 guidance to protect airline workers, the federal government is complicit in endangering the safety of our members and the traveling public, say CUPE’s airline locals and components.

On April 6, 2020, CUPE airline local and component presidents wrote a joint letter to Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Labour Minister Filomena Tassi asking them to step in to force airlines to provide flight attendants with the full personal protective equipment they need to do their job safely.

The letter also asked the ministers to act to uphold the health and safety laws through proper enforcement of the most basic of health and safety rights of flight attendants, including their right to refuse dangerous work.

To date, no answer was provided.

“Our members are dedicated in-flight safety professionals. They deserve an impartial application of the law from the federal government when employers are not providing a safe workplace,” said CUPE Airline Division President Julie Roberts. “Unfortunately, instead of taking their responsibilities seriously, the government is letting airlines get away with openly defying the Labour Code.”

“For months, we have been saying the lack of sufficient personal protective equipment is endangering our members’ safety on the job,” added Roberts. “Airlines in Canada are making progress, but not enough. For the health and safety of our members and the traveling public, the federal government must get involved now.”

Since March 15, there have been over 300 flights in Canada with confirmed COVID-19 travelers, resulting in at least 60 confirmed cases of CUPE members infected. Over 2,000 flight attendants across Canada are, or have been, in isolation after working on flights with infected passengers on board.