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Air Transat faces strike as soon as January after 2,100 workers overwhelmingly vote in favour of walkout

Air Transat's 2,100 unionized staff are in a legal strike position as soon as January after voting to give their union a strike mandate. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Air Transat's 2,100 unionized staff are in a legal strike position as soon as January after voting to give their union a strike mandate. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Air Transat flight attendants are in a position to strike as soon as Jan. 3 after an overwhelming majority voted to give their union a mandate to walk off the job if a new labour deal can't be reached.

A unit of The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents more than 2,100 Air Transat workers, says 99.8 per cent of them voted to go on strike if necessary if their union can't hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement with the Montreal-based airline.

Air Transat's current labour deal expired in October 2022 and the union has been trying to negotiate a new pact with the airline since April. More than 33 different issues are on the table but compensation is a major one.

"The vote reflects the flight attendants' exceptionally high level of dissatisfaction with their working conditions, particularly with wages and purchasing power," the union said in a release. "Following a dip during the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall outlook for the industry is once again extremely positive."

Dominic Levasseur, president of the Air Transat Component of CUPE, says there's still plenty of time to get a deal done without disruption to passengers, but in the event of a strike, all of the airline's flights would be cancelled starting at the tail end of the critical holiday flying season.

"Faced with the dizzying rise in the cost of living and the industry's favourable prospects, they are ready to take action," Levasseur said. "More than 50 per cent of them have been forced to take on a second or even a third job to make ends meet, and their starting salary is only $26,577 per year."

Andréan Gagné, a spokesperson for the Montreal-based airline, said that a strike mandate for a union is a normal part of negotiations and said the airline is "confident we will find an agreement."

"The tone at the bargaining table remains cordial and respectful, and discussions are progressing well on both parties' respective demands," Gagné told CBC News in a statement. "Transat maintains excellent working relations with its employees and CUPE, and intends to make every effort to find an agreement that will satisfy both parties."

If a labour disruption does happen, it will be one of many to bubble up in Canada's aviation sector recently.

WestJet and its major union faced a strike last May before the two sides hammered out a deal to avert major disruptions at the 11th hour of negotiations. And Air Canada is in the midst of its own labour talks right now with its pilots' union after the latter group pulled out of its existing deal earlier than planned.