SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Kevin Jackson

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House of Commons' Transport Committee must launch a public inquiry of proposed regulatory change that will put airline passengers at risk

OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 03/26/14 -- CUPE and its Airline Division are asking MPs on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to immediately study a regulatory change that will put airline passengers at risk. Transport Canada wants to let airlines reduce the number of flight attendants onboard some aircraft without any involvement by Parliamentarians.

"Transport Canada is willing to take a chance on the safety and security of airline passengers. Are you?" asked Michel Cournoyer, president of CUPE Airline Division, to members of the committee.

After granting exemptions from the current flight attendant staffing regulation to WestJet and Sunwing last year, Transport Canada now wants to let all airlines decide what standard they will apply on their aircrafts, the current ratio of 1 flight attendant for every 40 passengers or a new ratio of 1 flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats.

"Flight attendants are deeply concerned about the proposed change. Transport Canada has caved in to the airlines by proposing to go ahead with a regulatory change allowing for fewer flight attendants on commercial passenger flights. Lowering the standard was consistently rejected by former Conservative Transport Ministers Lawrence Cannon and John Baird for safety reasons. What's changed? Certainly not the reality on board an aircraft in an emergency situation," said Cournoyer. "Many aircraft will have at least one less flight attendant on board at full passenger loads. This will put passenger safety at risk, especially in the event of an evacuation or other emergency situation."

Transport Canada intends to have the change in effect as soon as possible, no matter what the negative consequences may be. On February 19, Transport Canada announced that on May 22 the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council will hold only a one day meeting to consult with stakeholders to discuss the proposed regulatory change.

"One day of hurried consultation is not enough," said CUPE National President Paul Moist. "Passenger safety and security require a more thorough process, a process in which Canada's elected representatives must have a central role."

On November 22, 2005, members of the Transport Committee unanimously supported a resolution asking Transport Canada to consult the committee before proceeding with any regulation to reduce the number of flight attendants on board air carriers. "It is the responsibility of the current members of the committee to be as vigilant now," said Michel Cournoyer.

In Australia, the House of Representatives' Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications issued a report in November 2011 rejecting the move from that country's existing "1 in 36" ratio to the "1 in 50" staffing ratio. "In Australia, the committee said no to the regulatory body," said Cournoyer. "In Canada, the Transport committee must play a similar role and stop this dangerous regulatory change."

CUPE represents over 10,000 flight attendants working for Air Canada, Air Transat, Calm Air, Canadian North, Canjet, Cathay Pacific, First Air and Sunwing.

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