ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The union representing employees with regional airline Jazz Aviation says it is considering legal action as 54 people in Newfoundland and Labrador lose their jobs because of service changes by Air Canada.
Shayne Fields, a national representative with Unifor, said Friday the layoff news was abrupt and unexpected. Employees deserve better, he said in an interview.
"We have members right now that have dedicated years of service, loyalty to this employer and provided good years of their lives," Fields said. "And this is the thanks they get."
Jazz provides regional service under the Air Canada Express brand. However, St. John's-based PAL Airlines will take over some former Jazz routes on Nov. 1, also flying under the Air Canada Express banner.
Fields said the shift means layoffs for 54 workers at three of the province's small airports. Twenty-five employees in Deer Lake will lose their jobs, as will 16 in Gander, and 13 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, in central Labrador, he said. The layoffs affect customer service agents and ramp service employees — workers that clean planes, guide aircraft or load and unload baggage.
Unifor filed grievances against Jazz at all three locations, Fields said. It is also examining whether there was a breach of labour standards, according to a union news release on Friday.
Teri Udle, a Jazz representative, said the company is making "staffing changes required as a result of changes to Air Canada’s schedule."
As of Nov. 1, Jazz will not be operating at all from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and thus 13 people will be laid off, Udle said in an email Friday. There will also be layoffs in Gander and Deer Lake, Udle added, but she would not confirm how many.
Air Canada said it struck a deal with PAL Airlines to supplement its agreement with Jazz, and to maintain service to regional communities in Atlantic Canada. Those areas have been hit hard by industry-wide pilot shortages, spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email.
"It is important to note that while the airline serving some Newfoundland communities may have changed, the amount of capacity, or seats available for people to travel on, remains the same and in some cases is actually increased over last year," Fitzpatrick said.
In the meantime, PAL Airlines is expanding and hiring because of its new contract with Air Canada, Joseph Galimberti, senior vice-president of public affairs with parent company PAL Aerospace, said in an interview.
"We're recruiting people and acquiring talent accordingly, across the full range of positions in the airline," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2023.
The Canadian Press