Unifor says Sunwing Airlines has not done enough to fill open positions by intending to hire permanent pilots who would be covered by the union’s collective agreement, instead opting to use temporary foreign workers. Read our letters to the company and the Canadian government asking them to stop this practice.
Unifor's letter to Len Corrado Président, Sunwing Airlines Inc.
President, Sunwing Airlines Inc.
Re: Sunwing Application to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program Dear Mr. Corrado,
As you know, it has come to our attention that Sunwing Airline Inc. intends to hire pilots from abroad through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program pending a positive Labour Market Information Assessment from ESDC.
We are writing to notify you that we will do everything in our power to ensure that positive opinion is not delivered.
It is our belief you have not done enough to fill the open positions through the hiring of permanent pilots who would be covered by our collective agreement. Nor have you worked to fill hours by utilizing existing pilots to the fullest including by offering overtime.
Earlier this year, Unifor informed Sunwing of the imminent need to begin the recruitment process in order to ensure sufficient applicants to fill positions that would be vacant come during the winter months. That forward-thinking action would have given the company enough time to hire and train pilots based in Canada to conduct the work required.
Instead of following our advice, you have manufactured your own labour shortage and are using it to undermine the wages and working conditions of your current workforce. Minutes from our July 20, 2022 meeting indicate Sunwing had 800 applicants for the available pilot position. But only 200 of those applicants were interviewed. And you hired only 148 of them. How can it be that only 148 were qualified or capable of becoming qualified with appropriate training?
Over the last number of months, my colleagues and I have consistently attempted to help you see reason and develop a plan to hire and train qualified pilots who would work on a permanent basis. Their employment would be governed by our collective agreement ensuring equity and stability for all pilots in the company.
We do not believe there is a shortage of pilots in Canada capable of – or willing to do the work – required by Sunwing.
Sunwing simply needs to be competitive, give direction on the future to its applicants. Some may require training, but the need for training should not be an impediment to being hired. Instead, Sunwing should consider the pipeline of pilots available at smaller airlines and hire accordingly.
President Local 7378
Unifor's letter to Steven West, Director, Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Employment and Social Development Canada
Steven West, Director
Temporary Foreign Worker Program,
Employment and Social Development Canada
Dear Mr. West,
Thank you for meeting with us on Oct. 3, 2022. As discussed in that meeting, we have gathered additional information we believe to be relevant to your investigation in to the Labour Market Impact Assessment provided by Sunwing Airlines Inc. as part of its application to hire pilots from abroad through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Employers applying to hire workers through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program are required to prove they have exhausted their search to hire workers on a permanent basis who are qualified or capable of becoming qualified. They must prove there are not enough workers in Canada AND prove they have conducted an exhaustive search. We do not believe Sunwing has conducted an exhaustive search. For example:
- Minutes from our meeting with the company on July 20, 2022 show the company had received 800 applicants for the pilot positions and conducted 200 interviews. The company hired 148 of those who were interviewed.
- Searches of the Canada Job Bank on Oct. 3 and Oct. 6 this month revealed the company is not advertising the available jobs on the Canadian government’s Job Bank. Flair Airlines and PropAir both have advertisements posted on the website.
- Sunwing’s own website lists an ad for pilots at all five locations across Canada. The advertisement does not list the salary. It does, however, list the full job requirements with a minimum 2,000 hours total time fixed wing for a First Officer position and minimum 5,000 hours command time for a Direct Entry Captain position. These requirements are higher than what is required by the ad sent to pilots at Smart Wing, the company whose pilots first made us aware of Sunwing’s intention to hire pilots from abroad through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
- A LinkedIn search revealed one job ad for a pilot. The tag on the listing showed the location to be Quebec City, Que. Clicking on the ad revealed the ad was actually for multiple locations, but that was not obvious when scrolling the job ads. The job ad lists minimum hours for First Officers and Direct Entry Captains that are higher then the requirements advertised in the ad to hire workers through the TFWP at Smart Wing.
- Sunwing pilots are paid significantly more than many pilots in Canada. Once a Sunwing pilot has five years of seniority, they will make approximately $85,000 a year and have the opportunity to become a Captain, earning significantly more. Unifor agreements at smaller airlines show First Officers in year five of their work make between $35,000 and $75,000 a year. These pilots would require additional training to qualify for the Sunwing Aircraft, but there is no reason to believe they would not qualify with proper training.
- Prior to the pandemic, Sunwing Pilots were guaranteed 85 hours flying time per month. The company forced temporary concessions on the union during the pandemic guaranteeing only 75 hours of flying. Now, instead of moving back to 85 guaranteed hours, the company is trying to hire Temporary Foreign Workers when current pilots would love to return to the pre-COVID level of flying.
By not hiring and training pilots in advance of the busy travel season, Sunwing has manufactured its own labour shortage and is now taking advantage of the current labour market situation in order to undermine our collective agreement and the quality of work available in Canada. In addition to offering training to pilots capable of becoming qualified, permanent jobs could be offered to pilots from abroad who would become a part of the Canadian workforce benefiting from the collective agreement and the general protections offered most workers in Canada.
This current situation is reminiscent of the situation with Sunwing in 2013 when the company tried to hire pilots from abroad through the temporary foreign worker program while perfectly qualified pilots formerly based in Canada had to search for work elsewhere. At that time, unions argued that allowing Sunwing to hire pilots through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program instead of training pilots capable of qualifying for the work undermined competition and acted as a subsidy to Sunwing. The same is true today.
Point 16 of the Temporary Foreign Worker Application asks whether or not a labour dispute is in progress? At Sunwing two major disputes are currently underway and have been filed with the CIRB. In addition, the application states that for unionized positions an employer must:
- Advertise and offer the same wage rates as those established under the Collective Agreement.
- Offer the Temporary Foreign Workers the same terms and conditions as Canadian and permanent resident workers.
- Recommend that employers work actively with union representatives to recruit Canadians and permanent residents.
The conditions above have not been met. Sunwing Airlines Inc. is attempting to
circumnavigate unionized labour recruitment by using foreign pilots instead of having to improve labour relations and working conditions. Undermining Canada’s labour market and air transportation requirements appear to be more important than following the rules.
We ask you deny the application of the Temporary Foreign Worker applications based on the above information.
Thank you very much for considering this information. We would be happy to speak with you again to provide further clarification if needed.
President, Unifor Local 7378