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CUPE files Federal Court challenge on Air Canada exemption from safety regulation

OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 08/08/14 -- CUPE is challenging a Transport Canada decision to exempt Air Canada from maintaining the current ratio of one flight attendant for every 40 passenger seats on the airlines flights. CUPE, the union representing over 7,000 flight attendants at Air Canada, says the exemption is illegal, and has filed a legal challenge with the Federal Court to have the exemption quashed.

"This exemption is clearly not in the best safety and security interests of Canadian passengers and it must be overturned," said Michel Cournoyer, president of CUPE's Airline Division. "Fewer flight attendants means more risks for passengers. We're confident the courts will see this simple fact."

CUPE has asked the Federal Court for a judicial review of Transport Canada's decision to grant the exemption to Air Canada. CUPE will argue that the exemption is illegal because the criteria set out in the Aeronautics Act for granting such an exemption were ignored by Transport Canada.

"In any emergency situation, like an evacuation, fire, cabin decompression, a disruptive passenger or a terrorist attack, flight attendants are the first line of defence when things go wrong on an aircraft," said Cournoyer. "Reducing the number of flight attendants on board by increasing the ratio to one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats, as Transport Canada intends, is a threat to passenger safety and security."

Since 1999, CUPE has successfully argued to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport and to Transport ministers that regulatory changes to the ratio of one flight attendant for every 40 passenger seats would reduce the current levels of safety and security and is not in the public interest. The exemption granted to Air Canada is an improper way of circumventing the regulatory process to avoid public scrutiny on this important safety issue.

"Bending to airline industry pressures to reduce the number of flight attendants for the sake of increasing profits is inexcusable," said Cournoyer. "The threat this exemption poses is undeniable, and when the Federal Court recognizes this, the Conservative government should do the right thing and keep one flight attendant for every 40 passenger seats as the standard ratio for all Canadian airlines."

CUPE represents more than 10,000 flight attendants employed by Air Canada, Air Transat, Calm Air, Canadian North, Canjet, Cathay Pacific, First Air and Sun Wing.

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