Union says airline firing Canadian pilots, hiring foreign staff

Air Transat issues 17 layoff notices ahead of busy travel season
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 11/25/2011

The union representing pilots at Air Transat says the company is strategizing to hire foreign pilots while simultaneously firing some of its Canadian staff.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) says 17 of its members received layoff notices this week, but the airline’s holding company, Transat A.T., has an agreement with CanJet Airlines to operate flights to southern destinations this winter. The union says CanJet would be hiring foreign pilots to meet the upcoming staffing needs.

"These layoffs are a major blow, not only to Air Transat pilots, but to all Canadian pilots," says chairman of Air Transat pilots' master executive council Captain Sylvain Aubin. "The fact that Transat A.T., through CanJet, is using foreign pilots when its own pilots are out of work is reprehensible. It's time to put an end to these practices.”

The president of the pilots association says there are some airlines abusing Canada's temporary foreign worker program by using it for competitive advantages instead of for filing a labour shortage.

"The hiring of even a single foreign pilot, when there are unemployed Canadian pilots, is unacceptable,” says Captain Dan Adamus, President of ALPA's Canada Board. “The issue of hiring foreign pilots and its impacts on the labour force are subjects that need to be taken seriously by the federal government.”

Air Transat has not commented on the layoffs.

ALPA says it intends to lobby the Canadian government for changes to the foreign worker program before a Senate committee on Transport and Communication on Nov. 30.

Transat A.T. — which includes Air Transat — said in October that it would eliminate 143 non-union positions across Canada in order to save $10 million a year. At the time of that announcement, the company said it did not intend to cut anymore jobs from its international staff of 6,500.

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