Air Canada to cut more than 5,000 jobs in response to coronavirus crisis

Canada’s largest airline plans to cut more than 5,000 jobs in the coming weeks as the coronavirus forces it to ground hundreds of international and domestic flights.

Air Canada is cutting 3,600 employees from its banner company and 1,549 from its discount carrier Rouge. The cuts, which make up nearly 60% of the company’s flight staff, will come in April.

Air Canada failing to inform us of true exposure to Covid-19, employees claim

The job losses mark the latest setback for airlines around the world which are collectively expected to lose more than $100bn in the coming months. Both the Australian carrier Qantas and Brazilian airline Latam have announced thousands of employees will be out of work in the coming weeks.

News of Air Canada’s job losses follows an announcement by the airline that it plans to halt the majority of its international flights – including those to the United States – by 31 March, as travel plans are abandoned amid the pandemic. Air Canada is among the 20 largest airlines in the world and employs nearly 30,000 staff worldwide.

Employees were advised of the pending layoffs on Thursday evening and will learn their fate in the next two days. The company has said the layoffs are temporary – and that most of those affected will return once the airline ramps up its operating schedule.

“This has been the most challenging time any of us will likely ever experience as flight attendants,” Wesley Lesosky, who represents Air Canada employees within Canada’s public workers’ union (Cupe), said in a statement.

Air Canada failing to inform us of true exposure to Covid-19, employees claim

“Our members have been on the frontlines of this crisis since day one, and it has been a tough journey ever since. Our hearts go out to all of our members, especially those who fell sick while doing their job,” said Lesosky.

Air Canada has been criticized by employees for not taking enough steps to ensure cabin crew are protected from the easily transmissible virus.

Early in the outbreak, the company’s chief medical officer advised staff that they were at low risk of transmission of the virus, according to internal chats seen by the Guardian.

But staff bristled at the idea they were not deemed high risk – and some suggested in a private Facebook group for employees that they considered the work “dangerous – for the first time in their careers.

At least four flight attendants with the company have tested positive for the coronavirus.

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