Air Canada customer sales & service agent
“Air Canada’s Customer Sales and Service Agents are the stars of a tightly orchestrated pre flight and pre-boarding process”, reads Air Canada’s En Route magazine. This very strategically placed article was printed in the May issue of En Route in the midst of contract negotiations. Although one would be led to believe that Air Canada has respect and praise for its’ front line employees, this could not be further from the truth. In recent months Air Canada’s over 3400 customer sales and service staff have been threatened with job outsourcing, as has already happened in London Heathrow. The company has even prepared for a strike by training replacement workers from the security company Garda.
This brings us back to the negotiations of 2011. Four years ago, Air Canada customer sales and service agents went on strike. The battle between the union and Air Canada was very public, the pilots had already rejected a contract. Air Canada was doing well but still wanted more from employees. The strike was short lived, as the threat of back to work legislation paved the way for a hastily ratified contract.
Fast forward to 2015. The dynamic has changed. Air Canada has posted record profits and there is a federal election on the horizon. Once again Air Canada is refusing to play nice with the employees, and sharing this new found wealth and profit with workers is out of the question. Since the bankruptcy of 2003 the customer sales and service agents have yet to see improvement in wages and shift scheduling, not to mention the antiquated sick time policy. Air Canada was restored back to profitability due to the expensive sacrifices of employees during very hard times, and it seems that Air Canada suffers from a bout of amnesia any time a contract is being negotiated.
Happy family? No. Divide and conquer. In October of 2014 the pilots ratified a 10 year contract, giving them a 2% yearly wage increase. The company even gave them additional perks to be on board with this contract, like a profit sharing formula. One in particular did not sit right with the other employee groups. Most employees fly on space available and are seated based on seniority (years of service). Air Canada’s pilots, meanwhile, were rewarded with three special passes that have a higher priority than the other employee groups, meaning a pilot with two years seniority can bump another employee with thirty years seniority should they use the special pass. The unconventional practice of using employee benefits as a bargaining tool resulted in conflict between the pilots and other employee groups not to mention placing unequal value and worth amongst its’ workforce. This practice has proven to foster a toxic work environment.
The climate at Air Canada is far from warm and fuzzy. In fact, it’s a never ending polar vortex between employees and employer. The arrogance and self entitlement of management adds to the already very low morale that permeates the company. Air Canada has said 2015 is the “year of the customer”, which is not very realistic since agents have very little resources at their disposal and are reprimanded for attempting to right a wrong when it comes to making customers happy.
The airline’s unwillingness to meet the unions half way, and to create a positive work
environment, is a direct result of corporate greed gone off the rails. The company fails to recognize that when they needed concessions the employees kept the airline flying. But now that times are good it’s time to show respect and to acknowledge these very employees, something Air Canada is incapable of demonstrating.
“It takes a team of miracle workers behind the scenes to keep customers moving efficiently through the airport right up until boarding”, the En Route magazine article continues. Sad that Air Canada does not believe what they print.