Union: First Air expansion could mean job loss
For everyone but flight attendants, First Air is a non-union shop. By taking over NWT Air, that could all change.
NWT Air workers can expect layoffs if the airline’s new owner decides to merge operations with First Air, a union spokesman said this week.
“If there’s amalgamation, definitely there’ll be a loss of jobs,” Roy Findley, secretary-treasurer for the Teamsters Local 362, predicted.
First Air, now Canada’s third largest domestic airline, completed its takeover of the Yellowknife-based carrier last week for an undisclosed sum.
Scott Bateman, NWT Air’s new president and chief operating officer, has promised better service and improved finances will result from greater operating efficiencies.
Some of those efficiencies could eventually come from merging head office operations, and by sharing a system of ticket reservations.
They probably won’t come from lower wages.
Although the sale doesn’t immediately affect existing contracts with employees, First Air may actually have to expand its own collective bargaining to accomodate unionized NWT Air workers.
Whereas flight attendants are the only First Air employees to enjoy union membership, nearly all non-management staff at NWT Air are unionized.
In addition to the Teamsters Union, First Air will have to deal with the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association and with the Canadian Auto Workers Union, which represents reservations, cargo and ramp workers.
Bateman, First Air’s corporate comptroller, who has had previous stints with Air Inuit and Makivik Corp., was to begin meeting with employees this week in Yellowknife.
Findley’s Teamster’s bargaining unit represents 35 workers at NWT Air. Flight attendants with First Air are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
If First Air pursues a complete merger of First Air and NWT Air operations, Findley said it will be up to the Canadian Labour Relations Board to decide which union should represent the amalgamated airline’s flight attendants.
“It’s our information that the plan is to run the the company separately for a period of time, and if that’s the case then the certificatons will remain in place and the agreement will remain in place,” said Findley.
First Air’s vice president of sales and commercial operations, Andrew Campbell, said the airline has no immediate plans for staff reductions.