The dramatic loss of passengers and other aviation activity due to the pandemic has been a major blow to the aviation sector. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Union renews plea for aviation industry help

Canada’s largest private sector union is urging the federal government to apportion some of its rapid testing kits to the aviation sector to help it recover from drastic damage to it caused by the pandemic.

The aviation industry is particularly important to Canada which is the second largest country in the world. It would take 23 days to drive from Newfoundland in the east to Alaska in the northwest. UNIFOR notes: “ The aviation sector is… an essential engine of national and international trade, ensuring that Canadian goods, services and expertise continue to get to market, and in turn ensuring Canadians have access to the goods, services and expertise required. Aviation workers contribute essential services that support the entire Canadian economy, including business, tourism, and cargo.”

Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost at airlines and other aviation-related areas. (iStock)

Tens of thousands of lost jobs

At Air Canada and WestJet some 30,000 skilled workers have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic. Workers at airports and in related fields have been laid off too. UNIFOR calls the pandemic “a devastating blow for a sector that previously employed roughly 240,000 workers and contributed nearly $37 billion in Canada’s Gross Domestic Product.”

UNIFOR accuses the Canadian government of failing to provide help for the aviation sector when countries like Germany, Singapore, France, the U.K. and the U.S. have provided support.

‘Regaining air and travel connectivity is essential’

The Canadian government has purchased up to 30 million rapid testing kits for COVID-19. The union wants some of those kits earmarked for the traveling public. 

It is also calling for $7 billion of direct financial support for the sector including loan guarantees, direct financial aid tied to the resumption of air services and funding dedicated to developing a quarantine and testing plan.

UNIFOR holds that “Aviation and the travel, hospitality and tourism industries are the connective tissue that keep our country together. Regaining air and travel connectivity is essential to the re-launch of our economy, and without immediate support, the job losses and route cancellations stemming from the pandemic risk becoming permanent.”

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