More than half of the current workforce of Air Transat flight attendants were told last week that they would be on temporary layoff, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
In addition to the leave of 128 Air Transat cabin crew members, the airline told workers its base in Vancouver will be closed on an interim basis.
CUPE says last week’s layoffs leave just 117 flight attendants working for the month of November, up from 245 in October, 355 in August and 2000 before the COVID-19 pandemic.
If no flight attendant has been permanently dismissed, the company is making “a number of temporary layoffs,” Christophe Hennebelle, vice president of human resources and corporate affairs at Transat AT, said on Monday.
Hennebelle says the company can’t confirm the total number until everyone has been notified, but 128 flight attendants were made aware of the change last week.
In total, the airline said it now has around 1,700 active employees, up from 5,100 before the pandemic.
The airline attributed the decision to the lack of prospects for improvement in the industry due to Canada’s borders being closed and the lack of airline support programs.
Transat is not the only company in difficulty. Combined Air Canada and WestJet airlines have laid off or laid off more than 30,000 employees since March, as ridership plummeted.
For Transat, the latest wave of temporary layoffs comes after all flight attendants were put on leave between April 1 and July 23, which brought the total number of employees at the company down to 800 workers in May. Some employees received government wage subsidies while not in the workforce, and some were called back to be fired again.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have adjusted our workforce to our planned capacity, sometimes calling employees back to work and sometimes, unfortunately, laying them off temporarily,” Hennebelle said.
The union said aviation workers will stage a protest in parliament at noon on Tuesday, demanding government support, including rapid testing for COVID-19 at Canadian airports.
“All of our information indicates that the resumption of Air Transat activities in the summer and fall of 2020 was completely safe for passengers and staff. A rapid screening system that provides results before boarding would be a crucial addition to revive the airline industry, ”said Julie Roberts, president of the Air Transat component of CUPE, in a statement.
“What we need is an effective federal screening program. “