The Interim Director of Human Resources lost his job on Wednesday, January 23. The union views this as a major setback. Furthermore, in the last few days, the company seemed to be doing as much as possible to stall the conciliation process.
"This director was the only Sunwing negotiator accustomed to collective bargaining. Under his leadership, with the help of the Ministry of Labour conciliator, the talks were productive. His departure is a very bad sign. We're concerned that negotiations will be deadlocked, and we suspect that is exactly what the company wants," said Mark Brancelj, president of the union of Sunwing flight attendants, CUPE Local 4055.
At the company's request, a conciliator from the Ministry of Labour was appointed on January 2. Two days of conciliation were held on January 17 and 18, and five more are scheduled between February 11 and 15. On March 2, sixty days after the start of the conciliation period, the flight attendants' union will have the right to strike. At that time, the conciliation period can be extended with the consent of both parties. But as things stand now, the union doubts that it would agree to an extension.
"With the departure of the management spokesperson, it seems as if we'll be starting from scratch. This is extremely frustrating for the flight attendants who are waiting for their first collective agreement. If our fears of a deadlock materialize, we will have no choice but to consider strike action," warned Caroline Bédard, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) national representative responsible for the file.
Last March, the approximately 900 Sunwing flight attendants chose to join CUPE in a vote conducted by the Canada Industrial Relations Board. Since accreditation, their union local has organized and taken shape. The union bargaining committee is made up of representatives from each of the airline's six bases: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. It has been attempting to negotiate its first collective agreement since September 12, 2012.
CUPE is Canada's largest airline union. In addition to its Sunwing members, CUPE represents nearly 10,000 flight attendants at Air Canada, Air Transat, CanJet, First Air and Cathay Pacific, as well as ground agents at Porter Airlines in Ottawa.
CUPE is the largest union in Canada, with 618,000 members working in health, education, municipalities, libraries, universities, social services, public utilities, urban and air transport, emergency services and communications.