"What they have actually put on the table is insulting. This from Sunwing, the airline company that pays flight attendants less than any other carrier and who, at the same time, is Canada's most profitable airline. We have not given up hope, but it feels like we're up against the Scrooge of the Canadian airline industry," says Caroline Bédard, CUPE National Representative and responsible for the Sunwing negotiations.
"Wednesday, the company filed for conciliation with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Talks will resume in January with the help of a mediator. We are hoping to have a fresh start because so far, we were going nowhere," explained Mark Brancelj, President of the Sunwing flight attendants union, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 4055.
"The goal of these negotiations is to raise the fight attendants' working conditions to the level of standards set by the airline industry."
Last March, approximately 900 flight attendants chose to join CUPE in a vote conducted by the Canada Industrial Relations Board. Since the vote, the union local has been busy building, training and organizing. The negotiating committee on the union's side is made up of members from each of the airline's six bases: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec.
Sunwing is a highly profitable company in an industry where competitors are struggling. Management totes up that they are the only airline with a profit margin oscillating around the 6% mark, while their competitors are showing margins around 1% and 1.5%, at best. The airline carrier continues to grow. Its 2012 profits are expected to reach about $70 million.
CUPE is Canada's largest airline union. With workers from Sunwing, CUPE now represents nearly 10,000 flight attendants at both large and smaller air carriers including: Air Canada, Air Transat, CanJet, First Air, Cathay Pacific, CALM Air, Canadian North, and the ground agents at Porter Airlines in Ottawa.
With around 618,000 members across Canada, CUPE represents workers in health care, education, municipalities, libraries, universities, social services, public utilities, transportation, emergency services, communications and airlines.