Air Canada faces government ire, protests over retrenchment

July 29th, 2008 - 11:18 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, July 29 (IANS) With Canadian Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn saying “no” to Air Canada’s plan to axe its staff without going through a proper mechanism, employees of the national carrier held rallies at major airports to protest job cuts. With soaring fuel prices imposing a billion-dollar extra burden on it, Air Canada last month announced it would cut its services by seven percent and axe 2,000 staff, including 632 flight attendants.

Hundreds of Air Canada flight attendants Monday held rallies outside airports in Montreal, Calgary, Winnipeg and Halifax to protest the airline’s decision.

In Winnipeg, the protesters got support from Manitoba provincial premier Gary Doer who said the airline’s decision to lay off staff at his capital’s airport made no economic sense to him.

The world’s 11th largest airline, which has about 7,000 flight attendants among its staff of 28,000, sought a government waiver to begin the lay-off process Nov 1 last year without examining the impact on the retrenched staff. However, the labour minister Sunday refused to waive rules for the airline.

Under Canadian labour laws, the airline is supposed to set up a joint panel with the union to ease the impact of its decision on the retrenched staff.

With its fuel bill going up by $1 billion this year, Air Canada last month announced cancellation of operations on 10 national and international routes. It also suspended three other flights for the time being, including some full-capacity flights.

With cancellation of its flights to the US tourist destinations of Orlando, Palm Beach, San Francisco and Sacramento, Air Canada will see a 13 percent drop in its trans-border capacity. On the international routes, it has suspended the Toronto-Rome, Vancouver-Osaka and Toronto-Port of Spain flights.

Voted the best airline of North America in the 2007 Skytrax World Airline Awards, Air Canada has been struggling to cut costs as each extra dollar it pays on fuel imposes an additional annual burden of $26 million on it.

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