Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

May 07, 2013 11:47 ET

No compromise on safety of airline passengers is acceptable

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - May 7, 2013) - By announcing its intent to reduce the number of flight attendants on board of large aircrafts, the Harper Conservative government is putting corporate profits ahead of the safety of passengers, says CUPE National President Paul Moist and CUPE Airline Division President Michel Cournoyer.

"Not only is the 1 to 50 flight attendant/passenger ratio exemption granted to WestJet on May 6 dangerous, but it is the tip of the iceberg. The Harper government is now ready to change regulations for all airlines and take a chance on the safety and security of all airline passengers," said Moist.

"On top of providing excellent services to passengers, flight attendants are safety professionals. On board, these women and men are firefighters, policemen and nurses. In an emergency situation, all the flight attendants are essential to ensure the safety and the security of passengers," said Michel Cournoyer.

In 2006, the then federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon decided to maintain the 1 to 40 flight attendant/passengers ratio for larger aircrafts because "the Conservative government recognized the important contribution that flight attendants make, particularly in emergency evacuations". Yesterday the government granted WestJet an exemption from the 1 to 40 ratio, and indicated it intends to change the regulations for all carriers.

"Fewer flight attendants means lower safety and more risk for passengers, especially in the post-9/11 era. Even the Harper government used to recognize that. Why such a dangerous reversal in the government position? Certainly, the reality on board in emergency situations has not changed," said Moist.

"In August 2005, an Air France Airbus ran off the Pearson Airport runway into a ravine and burst into flames. That day the ratio of flight attendants to passengers was 1 to 25, which exceeded the international standards, and all the passengers on board survived. This accident highlighted the essential role played by highly-trained flight attendants, as well as the need to have a sufficient number of these safety professionals on board," said Cournoyer.

"For the majority Harper government, it now seems that airline companies' profits are more important than common sense. With such high stakes for airline passengers, the federal government should not act unilaterally. We are asking the federal government to hold public consultations. Hopefully, the security priority will prevail," added Moist.

CUPE represents over 10,000 flight attendants working for Air Canada, Air Transat, Calm Air, Canadian North, Canjet, Cathay Pacific, First Air and Sun Wing.

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