Hourly wage for some Air Canada part-time employees reduced after payroll error by the airline

An Air Canada employee is calling out the airline after he says wages for part-time employees were lowered without warning. Faiza Amin speaks with a worker who is questioning Air Canada’s move and gets a response from the union.

By Faiza Amin and Meredith Bond

A part-time station attendant with Air Canada says the airline reduced their pay without warning following a payroll error amid the chaos at Pearson Airport and backbreaking work.

The attendant, who asked to remain anonymous, said when they were first hired in 2019 for Air Canada at Pearson Airport, part-time and full-time workers were both paid $14/hr.

Air Canada tells CityNews it laid off 50 per cent of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After returning to work in Oct. 2021, the station attendant tells CityNews Air Canada increased the wage for full-time workers to a minimum of $17.75/hr and part-time employees to a minimum $16.60/hr as a way to keep the current work force and attract new candidates.

However, they said all of the employees began receiving the wage of $17.75/hr.

They were then shocked when part-time employees received an email on August 10, saying their pay rate was being adjusted back to $16.60/hr without warning, and this would be reflected as of July 24.

The email shared to CityNews by the employee states that the company had “identified an error in the system that may have resulted in a higher hourly rate” for part-timers and have “made the necessary corrections and effective July 24, 2022, pay rate will be adjusted to $16.60/hr.”

Air Canada tells CityNews there are two part-time wage scales at the airline, ones for those who were hired before 2016 and one after 2016.

In a statement, they said they increased the wages for part-timers but had “inadvertently improperly increased wages for some post-2016 hires.”

“We are correcting these errors to be compliant with the collective agreement scale for them as well as creating parity with their peers in the same group,” read the statement from Air Canada in which they noted they would not be clawing back the overpayment.

During this time, in February, the station attendant said full-time workers received another pay raise, up to a minimum $21.11/hr while part-time workers remained at the same level.

“It looks like they’re basically taking it from us as part-timers to give it to the full-timers because they promised that they would get the increases,” said the employee. “I would like to know how it took the airline 10 months to realize they were paying us too much.”

The employee said there is no difference in the work that full-time and part-time workers participate in and the work has become increasingly more difficult.

“We’re doing the exact same job as the full-timers for less pay … We’ve tremendously been given a bigger workload and that goes for everyone that works on the airside. We have less manpower but more people are traveling now because of the restrictions that have been lifted. We have more luggage coming in. Many more people going on injury leave as well too because of the constant work that we’re given,” they explained.

“There’s definitely some sort of like exploitation in the fact that we don’t get paid as much and we are required to do more work than we should be because many people are inexperienced. And we are basically picking up that workload on top of our job.”

They added for them in particular and many others, this is a supplementary job in which they work between four to six hours a day. However, recently, they have been required to work a minimum of six hours a day, according to the attendant.

The employee said there are currently about 1,000 station attendants working now. Pre-pandemic, there were around 1,500 workers.

Air Canada said currently there are 34,000 employees working, just 700 short of pre-pandemic employment levels.

The station attendant said there has been no open dialogue from Air Canada or their union.

“We have not heard from anyone from either the human resources departments, from any of our executives either,” they said. “No one from management or from the union at all has gotten back to us.”

The union that represents them, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), tells CityNews they were notified and have filed a grievance, but the rollback on part-time pay was a payroll error and not something that was communicated to be paid in the first place.

“Obviously we understand the frustration of our part-time membership but there is nothing that can be done to force the employer to continue to pay the incorrect wage,” said Dave Flowers, President and Directing General Chairperson of District 140.

They would like to see their concerns heard.

“Our union can bring that to the company … basically, we have a collective agreement. However, the company has autonomy to change it as they please. And when we ask the union, they say absolutely nothing about it,” said the employee.

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