CUPE files legal challenge to reverse government decision that puts passenger safety at risk

Nov 27, 2013 12:06 PM

Ottawa, Ontario – CUPE is challenging the Conservative government’s decision to grant exemptions to the current ratio of one flight attendant for every 40 passengers on board Canadian airlines. CUPE National President Paul Moist and CUPE Airline Division President Michel Cournoyer said today that the decision is illegal and CUPE is challenging it in court.

“The criteria set out in the Aeronautics Act in order to grant such exemptions were ignored byTransport Canada,” said Moist. “Granting exemptions to Sunwing and WestJet is clearly not in the public interest because it compromises the safety and security levels currently in place. Yet, the Conservatives have decided to go ahead and favor airline profits no matter what.”

“But the reality is plain and simple:  fewer flight attendants means lower safety and security and more risk for passengers,” said Cournoyer. In an emergency situation, be it an evacuation, a fire, a cabin decompression, a disruptive passenger or a terrorist attack, every second counts. As safety and security professionals, flight attendants are the first line of defence when things go wrong on an aircraft.”

CUPE has asked the Federal Court for a judicial review of Transport Canada’s decision to grant an exemption to Sunwing whose 1,000 flight attendants are represented by the union.

“The matter is now before the Court and the Conservative government must put the exemption requests submitted by Air Canada and Air Transat on ice, so the safety and security of passengers onboard those airlines is not compromised,” said Moist “The same caution should apply in regard to the Conservative’s intention to change the existing regulation, which would allow all Canadian airlines to switch to the one to 50 ratio.”

“Since 1999, CUPE has successfully argued to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport and to Transport ministers that a regulatory change introducing the ratio of one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats would reduce the current level of safety and security and is not in the public interest,” said Cournoyer. Successsive Liberal and minority Conservative governments were convinced and rejected the call by the industry. This time, the Conservatives have decided to use the back door exemptions to avoid public scrutiny.”

“Unfortunately for the Conservatives and their airline CEO friends, CUPE will defend passenger safety and security in Court,” said Moist. Once the Court recognizes that reducing the number of flight attendants on board is a threat to passenger safety and security, the federal government will have no choice but to do the right thing and restore the ratio of one flight attendant for every 40 passengers as the standard for all Canadian airlines.”

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.

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