Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad
Union fears new First Air layoffs

Company contracts out Montreal services

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Oct 16/02) - The layoff of 42 First Air workers near Montreal has a national representative of the Canadian Auto Workers union warning that company employees across Canada could lose their jobs.

"Where does this stop? Is Ottawa next? Is Yellowknife next? Is Iqaluit next?" said CAW representative John Amato.

First Air flies into Dorval International Airport, near Montreal, at least once a day.

The company denies the allegations, and other First Air unions said they were not concerned.

Last week, First Air announced its termination of all ticket counter and cargo employees in Montreal, 22 full-time and 20 part-time workers.

The layoff takes effect Nov. 25.

The workers are being replaced by two contracts with independent companies, Globe Ground Services for passenger handling and Excel Cargo.

First Air spokesperson Tracy Beeman said the decision was based exclusively on cost.

"We had to be prudent to make sure we're running the most efficient in all our areas," she said.

"It's not unusual for First Air or other airlines to out source services where it's cost-effective."

And she denied that First Air has plans to lay off any more ticket or cargo employees.

"We have no plans to lay off in any other bases," she said.

According to the union, employees have been offered some bumping rights as well as a severance package of one week's pay per year of service, up to 12 weeks.

At least one Montreal employee had served for 14 years.

"I don't believe it's going to happen up here," said Steve Tomkins, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4021, which represents Yellowknife flight attendants.

But Amato is crying foul, accusing the company of union-busting and pledging to staunchly oppose the decision.

"We think that there may be some language in the collective agreement that will enable us to stop this contracting out.

"We think that for a corporation like Makivik, which is run by the Cree Indians -- a group of nations that have been oppressed and suppressed for so many years -- to treat people like this (the Montreal employees) in this manner is just a shame."

Makivik is actually owned by the Inuit of Nunavik, in northern Quebec.

That notwithstanding, Amato says the union will wage a fierce fight at contract talks next May.

"We don't trust this company one bit any more," he said.