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Porter Airlines targets laid-off workers in an effort to reduce costs

A Porter airlines plane flies through a cloudy sky.
January 19, 2021 - 12:00 AM

January 19, 2021

TORONTO – Porter Airlines is using the pandemic as an excuse to stop paying workers using the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and terminating health care coverage for its furloughed workers.

"It's disgusting that Porter Airlines would use the pandemic as an excuse to attack workers making little more than minimum wage," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "This employer wanted to open the collective agreement and cut 10%. The problem is that for most of these workers, a 10% cut would put them well below minimum wage. It's clear that the decision to stop CEWS and benefits for those on layoff is retaliatory."

The latest company memo to the employees restated that its startup date had been pushed to March 29 due to lack of traveller demand and further provincial restrictions. The memo said that as of January 22, 2021, the airline will not be extending its use of CEWS program and eliminating much needed health care benefits for laid-off employees.

"The CEWS program has provided significant job protection for members at Porter Airlines and has allowed our members to collect up to 75 % of their regular income. However, with many of these members earning just a little more than Ontario's minimum wage, these proposed cuts will make it impossible for many of these workers to get by," said Dias.

Last year Porter announced the closure of its operations due the COVID-19 pandemic. The CEO announced plans to reduce costs to ensure the airline would be able to resume operations once the pandemic ends.  Unifor continues to demand the federal government stop delaying and create a plan to prevent this crisis from destroying the industry entirely.

Unifor represents more than 16,000 members working in the air transportation sector, including pilots, customer service representatives, aircraft groomers, catering staff and air traffic controllers, to name a few.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

To arrange a phone, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype interview or for more information please contact Unifor Communications Representative Hamid Osman at hamid.osman@unifor.org or 647-448-2823 (cell).