Union 101: how CUPE works and how it can help you

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In short, being a union member means better pay, better benefits, and better job security. For more detail read below.

What is a union?

It’s a group of employees who organize and act together to improve their working conditions and protect their rights. In short, the union is you (and your co-workers)!

The union’s four main jobs are…

  1. Negotiating a contract (or “collective agreement”) that sets out working conditions, salary, and benefits
  2. Advocating for members and ensuring the collective agreement is enforced
  3. Continuously working to improve working conditions
  4. Creating a better society for everyone

What will a union do for me?

A union will help you earn more now and have a better retirement. On average, unionized workers in Canada earn about $5.28 more per hour than non-union. Unionized women earn about $7.10 more per hour. Only 30% of non-unionized workers have a pension; 80% of union members do. Unionized flight attendants in Canada have better daily pay guarantees and better per diems and wardrobe allowances.

Unions provide protection against unfair treatment at work, negotiating and enforcing collective agreements to ensure everyone is paid and treated fairly, without discrimination. They foster job security for their members so they can make plans for themselves and their families. They help create safe and rewarding workplaces.

Where do my dues go?

They’re invested in making your job and your life better. They pay for the lawyers, health and safety officers, and national representatives who will advance and protect your rights at work. They also help pay for the every day activities of your local, like office space, computers and equipment, or funding campaigns to raise awareness about issues affecting flight attendants.

WestJetters ultimately will decide how much they will pay in union dues. CUPE National’s standard rate is 0.85% of gross wages – that’s less than a penny for every dollar earned.

What about seniority?

CUPE won’t force a seniority system on WestJetters, but the current bidding system can’t accommodate all of us any more. Right now, there’s nothing stopping WestJet from imposing this system. With CUPE, we would be empowered to vote on a system and to find new solutions as a group, instead of having one imposed on us.

Will I be laid off if there’s a strike?

Without a union, that’s completely up to WestJet. With a union, members can negotiate protections for work stoppages like strike pay and layoff protection.

Keep calm, sign on

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Yesterday WestJetters received an email from WestJet CEO Ed Sims that told some pretty tall tales. Sims compared WestJet to an airline on the verge of going bankrupt, before implying that WestJet will be forced to fold if its employees unionize.

Let’s be very clear. These kinds of veiled threats from Mr. Sims in the middle of an organizing drive aren’t just absurd – they’re also prohibited by the Canada Labour Code.

All workers have a right to make a decision on unionization free from threats and intimidation, and CUPE is ready to defend that right for WestJetters.

WestJetters may be wondering what is driving their CEO to compare WestJet to an airline on the brink of bankruptcy when, just last week, the company announced its 52nd straight quarter of profitability.

It’s important to remember that the vast majority of flight attendants in Canada are unionized, and nearly 12,000 are members of CUPE.

It’s also important not to forget that when airlines go under it is usually due to poor management, catastrophic world events and unregulated competition – not union representation. In fact, CUPE has worked very closely and effectively with employers in the fallout of catastrophic world events so that we increase and maintain jobs, not close shops.

The simple truth is, Mr. Sims and his team are frustrated by the prospect of losing absolute control over your working conditions.

They are threatened by the thought of WestJet’s largest working group, Cabin Crew Members, taking a stand for respect and fairness at work.

They are desperate to undercut the momentum of our campaign.

But their frustration and desperation do not permit them to violate your Charter right to join a union.

Yesterday’s email is another desperate play out of the standard anti-union playbook. It’s because they know we’re close.

But if WestJetters stay determined and focused, we’ll make our shared goal of a fair contract and strong representation a reality.

If you haven’t already, sign your card to join CUPE. And if you have signed your card to join CUPE – bravo! Talk to a friend about signing theirs today!

CUPE will help WestJetters fight for better per diems

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On May 1, WestJet CCMs got a two per cent bump on their Meal Cost Replacement (MCR) rate to $3.2581 per hour for Canada and the mainland United States and $3.4422 per hour for International flights. But when we look at what other flight attendants represented by CUPE have negotiated, we see once again that WestJet CCMs are getting shortchanged.

For example, CUPE members at Air Transat are paid an hourly per diem of $4.63 in Canada, $5.98 for the United States and Europe, and $6.62 for Ireland and the UK – on top of employer-provided crew meals. These amounts are scheduled to increase each year of the collective agreement. Per diem is calculated from engine start or originally scheduled flight departure up until the actual time of return to home or seasonal base at the end of the pairing.

CUPE members at Air Canada have negotiated a per diem of $89.57 per day for meals and incidentals for Canada and the United States. On International flights, per diem rates are based on the destination, are negotiated by the union and get adjusted every 6 months based on the real cost of meals in that location. For example, the current per diem for Air Canada flight attendants working to London is $160.92 per day for meals.

On top of per diems, CUPE members have negotiated fair cleaning and footwear allowances. Air Transat and Sunwing flight attendants receive a dry‑cleaning and footwear allowance of $85 per month. Air Canada flight attendants receive a footwear allowance of $120 per year and a dry-cleaning allowance of $45 per month.

The key difference? Having a real say over your working conditions.

These rates are the product of legitimate collective bargaining process. CUPE flight attendants have negotiated different per diem and allowance systems, and ultimately it will be up to you and your membership to decide which system works best for you. Per diem and allowances are crucial components of our compensation as flight attendants. WestJetters deserve decent rates that stack up with industry standards.

If you haven’t already, sign your card to join CUPE. And if you have signed your card to join CUPE – bravo! Talk to a friend about signing theirs today!

What does ALPA’s strike vote mean for Cabin Crew? (Part II)

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WestJet pilots have been trying to negotiate a fair contract since September 2017. This has included a 60-day federal conciliation period during which independent conciliation officers appointed by the Minister of Labour tried to assist the parties in reaching a deal. On May 10, WestJet Pilots voted 91 per cent in favour of striking, with a 95 per cent voter turnout.

A strike vote is a vote of confidence. It is a vote of the union’s members on how strongly they support the bargaining committee’s demands to the employer. A strong strike mandate sends a powerful message of unity. It is a negotiating tool under the Canada Labour Code to maximize the union’s position at the bargaining table.

 This strike vote still does not guarantee a strike will occur.

Often unions and employers are able to reach a deal without having to resort to a strike vote. If the company had been taking the pilots’ legitimate demands seriously over the past eight months, a strike vote would not be necessary.

What’s next?

A statutory “cooling-off” period is in effect until May 18. The pilots have stated they are open to negotiating 24/7 during this period. If this period is also exhausted, the pilots are legally permitted to strike. A “strike” can mean a variety of collective actions designed to apply economic pressure on the employer. It does not necessarily mean a system-wide withdrawal of services. It’s important to remember the pilots have stated they want to avoid any possible job action and do not want to strike.

On April 27, ALPA and the company agreed to an extended 14 days straight of bargaining 24 hours per day. Negotiations will continue next week.

ALPA is required to give at least 72 hours notice in advance of strike caution and the employer is required to give the union at least 72 hours in advance of a lockout.

The pilots have reiterated their hope to negotiate a contract, with the help of a strong strike mandate, and not have to resort to go on strike. As a gesture of good will, they have also publicly stated they will not take job action during the May long weekend.

What will happen to Cabin Crew Members in the event of strike action?

It is WestJet’s obligation to communicate details of their contingency plan with you.

. Without a union, it is solely WestJet’s discretion on how a contingency plan will be implemented. Matters of pay and requirement to report to base are up to the company. With a union, Cabin Crew Members would have the ability to negotiate a provision in a legally binding collective agreement that could stipulate a protocol to be followed in the event of a third-party strike.

The WestJet pilots’ bargaining proposals are reasonable and represent the industry standard enjoyed by other pilots within North America. WestJet pilots are worth an industry-standard contract. The efforts are for a collective agreement that protects WestJet flying and WestJet careers, contains fair and healthy work rules, and recognizes the true value, vast experience and professionalism of WestJet pilots. The goal is to get to a fair deal that brings stability to the airline.

We will continue to keep you informed. Please do not hesitate to connect with us if you have any questions.

While ALPA is looking out for the best interests of WestJet pilots, Cabin Crew Members still do not have the same independent, legal representation. Cabin Crew Members need to certify with CUPE now more than ever. Help bring this campaign over the finish line. Reply to this e-mail to request more cards to sign up your friends and co-workers.

WestJetters deserve better than secret videotaping onboard

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It’s been a rough couple of days for WestJet CEO Ed Sims, after multiple news reports highlighted the lack of respect for WestJet Cabin Crew from management.

Sims was put on the hot seat by reporters on Tuesday at the company AGM in Calgary about a report that WestJet had been enlisting its Gold-level flyers to secretly videotape flight attendants in their workplace. Here’s what Sims had to say.

“It’s relatively commonplace now.”

It’s not. CUPE represents 12,000 flight attendants working at nine airlines across Canada, and would fully oppose any other airline trying to enlist its customers to spy on their own employees. Across the industry in Canada, prohibitions against recording onboard without consent are the rule, not the exception.

In fact, WestJet’s own tariff prohibits photographing, videotaping and recording without consent. Was WestJet really asking customers to break its own rules?

When asked if the plan to record onboard aircraft has been “shelved”, Sims gave two contradictory answers. First, he stated: “It was never a plan.” Then he immediately interrupted himself and started over: “It was part of a plan to ensure that we had the richest library of content around ours and our competitors’ services.”

WestJet’s “plan” to covertly videotape employees and create a “rich library” was never about celebrating their work. Recognition programs that respectfully and efficiently celebrate the great work of employees already exist at WestJet. Teams assigned to WestJet’s web and social media feedback channels already pull feedback from customers on a regular basis and give a High-5 recognition to Cabin Crew who go above and beyond.

“I apologize unreservedly to any flight attendants for those who were upset or offended by that action.”

There’s a big difference between someone saying they’re sorry you were offended (or that they got caught), instead of apologizing for what they actually did. Violating trust and privacy and disrespecting your employees is a serious matter. WestJetters deserve a real apology from their CEO.

Things could have been very different for Sims this week if he and his management team were willing to show respect and care for the basic rights of their employees.

It’s time to get the respect at work that WestJetters deserve. Sign your card today – and if you’ve already signed yours, get a friend to sign one too.

#FactsFriday: improving your Boeing 787 experience

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The Boeing 787 Dreamliner. You may have seen the powerpoint pitch, now how about those work rules? WestJetters need:

✓ Dedicated, contiguous crew rest unit that can’t be sold
✓ Protected crew rest periods
✓ Cross-training on all aircrafts
✓ Augmented crew compliment on 787 long range flying
✓ Wide-body pay

The company and the WCCA are currently negotiating rules for the arrival of the 787s. Yet the WCCA’s current deal with the company regarding wide-body flying has left Cabin Crew Members vulnerable.

The letter of understanding covering 767 flying only stipulates crew rest seats as three economy class seats on flights under eight hours as “last sold”, and two economy class seats on flights over eight hours.

There is no guarantee these seats are together and not spread throughout the cabin. Crew rest periods are not covered in the current Cabin Crew Agreement. Rather, crew rest periods are referenced only in the Flight Attendant Manual which can only be changed by the company’s request to Transport Canada.

Provisions related to rest and rest times must be negotiated and protected in any agreement on working conditions. The WCCA’s track record on wide-body work rules is concerning.

The current letter of understanding references “flights under eight hours” and “flights eight hours to 11.5 hours”, which is incredibly vague, as it does not specify flying time or gate-to-gate block time. Cabin Crew Members need clear contract language that cannot be exploited by the employer.

WestJet Cabin Crew Members deserve independent, fair legal representation that advocates for you first.

CUPE flight attendants already fly on 787s, have plenty of wide body experience with galley layout, crew rest units, safety equipment location, crew compliment and number of cabin crew jump seats. By joining CUPE, your group will have access to the first-hand experience and knowledge of CUPE’s expert airline members and support staff to help you negotiate the protections you need to get the job done safely.

Sign a card (or get a friend to sign up) here and make sure your wide body experience is what you deserve.

PS, we’ve been getting some questions from union supporters about renewing their membership. We will be in touch with you soon if this applies to you. For more information, click here.

What does ALPA’s strike vote mean for Cabin Crew?

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WestJet pilots have been trying to negotiate a fair contract since September 2017. This has included a 60-day federal conciliation period during which independent conciliation officers appointed by the Minister of Labour tried to assist the parties in reaching a deal. On April 25, WestJet’s ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC) opened a strike vote which will remain open for 15 days in order to provide their members a reasonable opportunity to participate.

A strike vote is a vote of confidence. It is a vote of the union’s members on how strongly they support the bargaining committee’s demands to the employer. A strong strike mandate sends a powerful message of unity. It is a negotiating tool under the Canada Labour Code to maximize the union’s position at the bargaining table. A strike vote does not guarantee a strike will occur.

Often unions and employers are able to reach a deal without having to resort to a strike vote. If the company had been taking the pilots’ legitimate demands seriously over the past eight months, a strike vote would not be necessary.

What’s next?

If no agreement is reached by the end of the last day of conciliation April 27, a 21 day statutory “cooling-off” period begins. The pilots have stated they are open to negotiating 24/7 during this period. If this period is also exhausted, the pilots are legally permitted to strike. A “strike” can mean a variety of collective actions designed to apply economic pressure on the employer. It does not necessarily mean a system-wide withdrawal of services. It’s important to remember the pilots have stated they want to avoid any possible job action and do not want to strike.

What will happen to Cabin Crew Members in the event of strike action?

This is a question for the company. Without a union, it is solely WestJet’s discretion on how a contingency plan will be implemented. Matters of pay and requirement to report to base are up to the company. With a union, Cabin Crew Members would have the ability to negotiate a provision in a legally binding collective agreement that could stipulate a protocol to be followed in the event of a third-party strike.

The WestJet pilots’ bargaining proposals are reasonable and represent the industry standard enjoyed by other pilots within North America. WestJet pilots are worth an industry-standard contract. The efforts are for a collective agreement that protects WestJet flying and WestJet careers, contains fair and healthy work rules, and recognizes the true value, vast experience and professionalism of WestJet pilots. The goal is to get to a fair deal that brings stability to the airline.

CUPE has established open channels with WestJet’s ALPA MEC so that we can relay the facts, not rumours, to Cabin Crew Members. We will continue to keep you informed. Please do not hesitate to connect with us if you have any questions.

While ALPA is looking out for the best interests of WestJet pilots, Cabin Crew Members still do not have the same independent, legal representation. Cabin Crew Members need to certify with CUPE now more than ever. Help bring this campaign over the finish line. Reply to this e-mail to request more cards to sign up your friends and co-workers.

#FactsFriday: We’re on the verge of a breakthrough, and the company knows it

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There comes a point in every union drive where the employer starts pulling all the stops to try and halt the momentum for independent, fair legal representation. Common tactics employers use to interfere with an organizing drive include:

  • Calling someone into the office for a mandatory meeting and asking about the union
  • Saying that management will refuse to deal with the union even if it’s certified
  • Helping and encouraging anti-union employees to campaign against the union
  • Promising wage increases, benefits or specific working conditions if employees reject the union
  • Threatening to end present benefits if employees join a union
  • Disciplining a union supporter for doing something employees who don’t support the union get away with
  • Terminating employees without just cause to send an intimidating message to others

All of these tactics are illegal. CUPE has been notified about instances of WestJet recently trying to intimidate employees to refrain from joining the union – but it isn’t working.

Cabin Crew Members are more confident than ever that they deserve the strong representation that CUPE is offering.

It is your fundamental right to join the union of your choice. This is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is your Charter right to speak freely about your right to join a union. It is also your right to engage in a union campaign free from intimidation, threats, coercion, harassment or discrimination by your employer. If you think your rights or those of a co-worker are being threatened or violated, contact CUPE for more information about how to protect your rights.

Click here to know your rights at work.

If you haven’t already, sign your card to join CUPE. And if you have signed your card to join CUPE – bravo! Why not talk to a friend about signing theirs today?

Support our union drive by liking the Facebook page and invite other WestJetters to join the page too.

WestJet cost-cutting announcement underscores urgent need for union representation

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Last week, WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims told WestJet Cabin Crew Members to “act like an owner” and embrace a quarter-billion dollar “cost-cutting initiative.”

Cabin Crew Members should be concerned about where these cuts will come from. The last major wave of cost-cutting at WestJet resulted in flying with fewer flight attendants on board. Instead of one flight attendant for every forty passengers on board, WestJet implemented one flight attendant per fifty passengers. CUPE has been standing up against this threat to passenger and crew safety in the courts ever since.

There are a few questions worth asking. Will the Executive Leadership Team be looking at cost reductions in:

  • Excessive executive compensation? (See page 47)
  • Resources spent on fighting ALPA in negotiations for WestJet pilots’ first fair contract?
  • Money spent on repainting mainline planes with a coat of pink paint?

WestJetters know just how hard they work and how excellent they are at what they do. Employee compensation, benefits and job security must not be on the chopping block. WestJetters deserve better. WestJet needs to show some respect for the contributions of Cabin Crew Members behind the company’s success.

The best way for WestJetters to demand better and defend themselves against cost-cutting is to sign a card to join CUPE today.

#FactsFriday: How will ultra low-cost carriers affect you?

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Adrienne Silnicki, CUPE National’s airlines researcher, looks at how ultra low-cost carriers have impacted airline workers and passengers around the world.

We’re about to experience a surge in ultra low-cost carriers (ULCC) in Canada, as up to four new carriers including WestJet’s Swoop plan to start flying in the next year.

Protect your wages, benefits and working conditions against ULCC uncertainty by signing a card to join CUPE today.

Changes to federal law under Bill C-49 will double the amount of money foreign investors can put into airline carriers – and while the federal government says it will mean more low-cost carriers, this could be bad news for airline workers and passengers too.

ULCCs profit off the backs of workers

The only way for ULCCs to be successful is to minimize labour costs and expand workers’ tasks. For flight attendants at ULCCs, that has meant lower wages, few benefits, no pension, and expanded work portfolios. For example, when VirginBlue launched in Australia, flight attendants and ground crew were interchangeable – meaning they were trained and responsible for anything from making reservations to cleaning aircraft to handling freight and aircraft equipment.

ULCCs impact workers at mainlines too

To compete with ULCCs, full service carriers make changes that impact their workers too. When RyanAir launched, Aer Lingus cut staff payments by 21 per cent. Ansett was forced to shut down after 66 years in business following the launch of Impulse (now JetStar) in Australia.

For many carriers-within-a-carrier like JetStar (part of Qantas) or Swoop (part of WestJet), there are legitimate concerns that the ULCC will be used to contract out the work of higher paid employees of the full service carrier – resulting in less work and lower pay.

ULCCs impact passengers too

While the idea of lower airfares is exciting to passengers, they usually end up paying the difference through non-advertised fees and drastically reduced onboard comforts.

A race to the bottom

Ultra low-cost carriers are not coming to Canada to improve our flying experience. They’re here to make money through diminished working conditions for airline workers and flying experiences for passengers. They will force mainline airlines like WestJet to fly fewer routes, offer fewer services, and decrease staff wages and benefits to remain competitive.

As the launch of Swoop approaches, it’s more important now than ever that WestJetters get the union representation they need and deserve to protect and improve their wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Sign your card or sign up a friend to join CUPE today.

Help us grow our organizing drive by liking our page on Facebook.