On August 4, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled against the federal government, and confirmed CUPE’s position that safety is paramount in the operation of airlines in Canada.
“This is a major wake-up call for Transport Canada,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “The safety of passengers and crew must come first.”
In October 2013, the federal minister of transport granted Sunwing Airlines an exemption to miniumum staffing requirements, allowing them to reduce the ratio of flight attendants to passengers on board flights by 25 percent. It was granted even though Sunwing couldn’t demonstrate passenger and crew safety could be upheld with a reduced number of flight attendants on board.
So CUPE took the government to court. And on Friday, August 4, we won. The Federal Court sided with CUPE, marking an important victory for passenger safety, for our flight attendant members at Sunwing.
It’s an important example of how CUPE works with its members on issues affecting them at work and then takes those issues to the highest levels of government. This win for Sunwing flight attendants is a win for all flight attendants across Canada. And it is exactly the kind of effective action that CUPE – and only CUPE – can bring to bear for WestJet Cabin Crew as they look to unionize.
It also gives hope that a separate court challenge, launched by CUPE regarding the government’s current 1:50 ratio, will also be successful. CUPE also launched the Safer Skies campaign in 2016, to lobby the federal government to restore the safer ratio of one flight attendant for every forty passengers – a recommendation that was unanimously adopted by the House of Commons transport committee in June.