Safer Skies - CUPE

Safer Skies - CUPE

November 07, 2016 10:00 ET

CUPE launches Safer Skies campaign and petition: The federal government must improve passenger safety and air quality on airlines

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Nov. 7, 2016) - "Compromising the health and safety of passengers on Canada's airlines is totally unacceptable," said Michel Cournoyer, CUPE's Airline Division President. "Unfortunately, Transport Canada is willing to gamble on the health and safety of passengers."

"The previous federal government's decision to allow Canadian airlines to fly with fewer flight attendants is a threat to passenger safety. Another worrisome reality is that, on most aircraft, passengers and crew can be exposed to toxic fumes in the cabin. These health and safety risks should be eliminated. But if the Liberals are not willing to do that they must at least respect their election promises," added Michel Cournoyer.

On August 1st 2015, Transport Canada allowed Canadian carriers to operate with a ratio of one flight attendant to 50 passenger seats (1:50 ratio), even though Transport officials admitted that the safety level provided by the new ratio will never be equivalent to that of the previous one flight attendant to 40 passengers ratio (1:40 ratio). In fact, the 1:50 ratio lowers passenger safety. Since that change many aircraft have reduced crew, in some cases leaving exit doors uncovered. This will put passenger safety at risk, especially in the event of an evacuation or other emergency situations.

"During the last federal election campaign, the Liberals committed to consult 'stakeholders and experts' on the ratio issue, 'all the while keeping the safety of all Canadians as a top priority.' If the federal government is not willing to scrap the 1:50 ratio for good, it must at least respect this election promise," stated Michel Cournoyer.

CUPE's Airline Division calls on the government to restore the 1:40 ratio, at least until Transport Canada conducts a new and unbiased risk assessment of the 1:50 ratio in a fully transparent way. Key stakeholders must be involved in the process, and the risk assessment must be made available to the public. The Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities should oversee any review of the ratio, including a new risk assessment.

Toxic fumes

Air quality on board of Canadian aircraft is also a major concern. If there is an engine malfunction, passengers and crew on most aircraft can be exposed to toxic fumes in the cabin. Even if many airlines continue to deny it, there is significant evidence showing exposure to toxic fumes is a hazard and can lead to the following symptoms while on board: irritation of eyes, nose and upper airways, cough, breathing difficulties, tightness in chest, blurred or tunnel vision, headache or light headedness, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, nausea, and vomiting. Longer term effects include damage to the respiratory and central nervous system, impaired memory and cognitive function, weakened immunity, cardiovascular disorders and possibly cancers.

The only way to totally ensure that flight attendants and passengers are not being exposed to toxic fumes is to fit aircraft with filtration systems that eliminate any potential air contamination, or change the way pressurized air is brought into the cabin when aircraft are designed. Transport Canada regulations should be changed accordingly to protect the health of passengers and crew.

"During the last federal election campaign, the Liberals committed 'to ensuring that all Canadians have a safe and healthy working environment through evidence-based measures and proper consultation with stakeholders and experts'. Therefore, the federal government should immediately bring together representatives from the airline industry, the medical and scientific communities, and airline unions, to recommend all possible regulatory options to eliminate the harmful effects of toxic fumes," concluded Cournoyer.

CUPE's Airline Division encourages Canadians to sign the Safer Skies petition to keep the Liberals accountable on these important health and safety issues for both passengers and crew.

The petition is available on line at http://cupe.ca/safer-skies

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