Air Canada's decision to move its pilots and flight crew out of downtown Winnipeg is a contract violation, says the head of the union representing the airline's pilots.
In a bulletin issued late last month, Air Canada informed its pilots and flight crew personnel that they would no longer be staying at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Winnipeg because of "questionable safety in the area."
Instead, staff are being housed at the Sandman Hotel and Suites, located near the airport on Sargent Avenue.
But Capt. Paul Strachan, president of the Air Canada Pilots Association, said the union's contract with the airline states that pilots on stayovers — wherever they are in the world — are required to be housed downtown "for obvious reasons."
"It's so they have access to a decent variety of food, activities for themselves in their off-hours, laundry, these sorts of things, right? So this is why we have that provision," Strachan told CBC News on Sunday.
The Sandman Hotel and Suites is a 10-minute drive from downtown Winnipeg, according to its website. The Radisson is on Portage Avenue and Smith Street, in the heart of the city.
Unsafe downtown claim 'ridiculous'
Air Canada's bulletin said local police have observed "instances of public intoxication, resulting in several downtown locations being susceptible to crimes of violence and opportunity."
The airline's note refers to "displaced" people from rural Manitoba who were forced to relocate to the downtown core due to "recent environmental issues."
It is unclear whether the bulletin was referring to residents of rural areas affected by flooding in the province earlier this summer.
But Strachan, who had met with other pilots in Winnipeg last week, said Air Canada's claim that the downtown is unsafe for pilots is "simply ridiculous."
The union will take action on the contract violation, he added.
Winnipeg police said its officers have met with Air Canada officials and co-operated with the airline's corporate security to evaluate safety concerns in the area.
But spokesperson Const. Natalie Aitken said a security assessment is not yet completed.
"Our police service had been in consultation with Air Canada's corporate security in terms of doing an assessment on the Air Canada building," Aitken told reporters on Saturday.
"That assessment had not been completed yet. It had not been conducted at this time."
The Air Canada bulletin says officials will "revisit the downtown area once the present situation improves. Authorities anticipate displaced people to be an issue for another 12 months."