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Canada’s flight attendant union is launching its Safer Skies campaign to make the airline industry safer for in-flight staff and the flying public in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign, launched by the airline division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), calls on the federal government to require better access to personal protective equipment for airline workers, and to recognize the right of workers in Canada to refuse unsafe work.
CUPE said the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted how poorly current regulations protect flight attendants and, by extension, the flying public. In the past months, CUPE has observed poorly done airport screening procedures, and inadequate supplies of personal protective equipment or equipment that was faulty or not up to the job. Flight attendants were told to work in unsafe conditions, without proper protection, or go without pay, highlighting the failure of Canada’s so-called “right-to-refuse” labour laws.
“Canada’s flight attendants were some of the first in Canada to be exposed to COVID-19, and they stayed on the front lines and risked their own safety to bring Canadians home during this unprecedented crisis,” said Wesley Lesosky, president of the Air Canada Component of CUPE. “The government has an opportunity now to make flying safer for everyone — they must seize it.”
“Anything that makes flight attendants safer on the job also makes passengers safer while they travel,” said Lesosky. “As flying ramps back up, we urgently need the government to recognize what we’ve been through, and make sure that next time, passengers and flight attendants are both protected.”
The campaign asks airline workers and members of the general public to write their MP and Transport Minister Marc Garneau to demand better protections for workers and the public in the air, using an email tool on the campaign website.