Flight attendants on CEWS see income cut in half

CALGARY, Alberta–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Federal government announced yesterday it would extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). At the same time, WestJet told employees their benefit would be cut as much as 53%, while the company waits for details of the criteria for payment from Ottawa. Their union is crying foul and calling on Ottawa to fix the problem.

“The lack of direction from the government is causing risk for businesses and stress for individuals,” said Chris Rauenbusch, President of CUPE 4070. Rauenbusch represents about 4,000 cabin crew members at WestJet companies. “WestJet can’t float our wages until Ottawa fills in the blanks, so our members are seeing their cheques cut in half.”

On Wednesday, WestJet sent a memo to employees about the problem. Until Ottawa clarifies amounts payable to WestJet, the most any employee will receive will drop from $847/week to $400. About 2,500 furloughed CUPE members across WestJet access CEWS, as well as other non-union employees.

“Understandably, our members are alarmed at the prospect of such a big cut in pay. Especially at a time of such high unemployment,” said Rauenbusch. “Many employees have called me in tears at the prospect they might not make rent.”

Rauenbusch wants to see Ottawa “step up and support their words with action. It is so frustrating to see the government touting CEWS while bureaucratic bumbling and ever-changing rules leave us wondering what to expect next.”

CUPE has previously called upon the Liberal government for an airline strategy. Rauenbusch says Canada is the only country in the G7 without a sector specific aid package aimed at airlines.

“Canada is a large country with only two big airlines. Ottawa needs to realize that if they don’t act, we may not have commercial air travel by the end of the pandemic.”


Lou Arab

Communications Representative


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