Manitoba

Nav Canada to close Winnipeg flight information centre amid hundreds of layoffs

The company in charge of Canadian air navigation is laying off hundreds of employees across the country, and closing its Winnipeg operations, as COVID-19 continues to throttle the airline industry.

Company that runs Canadian air navigation experiencing 'toughest moment in its history,' CEO says

Nav Canada is not immune to the 'new realities of air traffic levels' during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said in a release this week. (CBC)

The company in charge of Canadian air navigation is laying off hundreds of employees across the country, and closing some of its Winnipeg operations, as COVID-19 continues to throttle the airline industry.

Including newly announced layoffs, Nav Canada has eliminated more than 720 jobs — 14 per cent of its workforce — and plans to close its flight information centres in Winnipeg and Halifax, the company said in a news release this week.

"Undoubtedly, the company is in the midst of the toughest moment in its history," said Neil Wilson, Nav Canada CEO.

Nav Canada is a private, non-profit company that operates air navigation across the country.

Air traffic services won't be affected by the change, the company says. Pilots and dispatchers will get the information they need from other flight information centres.

Nav Canada says its Winnipeg air traffic control tower and some of its other operations in the city will not be closing.

It is also looking at service levels at 24 different locations across the country, including four in Manitoba, in Brandon, Flin Flon, Churchill and The Pas.

The company cited the "new realities of air traffic levels" and the negative impact on the industry in its news release.

Earlier this month, officials at Winnipeg's James Armstrong Richardson International Airport said passenger traffic at the city's main airport dropped from more than 10,000 people a day in 2019 to fewer than 900 a day this year.

"Nav Canada is not immune to the economic downturn and severe financial impacts the aviation industry is experiencing," Wilson said in the release.

'Aviation workers have stepped up': MPs

Cuts at Nav Canada reach across all departments and include most of the current cohort of operational students, the company said in its release.

The reductions follow layoffs at the Winnipeg Airports Authority, which laid off one-quarter of its Winnipeg staff in June. The layoffs amounted to losing 35 positions, although only 28 were filled at the time, a spokesperson said in June.

"These workers are facing an uncertain future, as the jobs that they're specially trained to do — and many of them have many years of experience doing — are no longer available," said Marty Morantz, the Conservative member of Parliament for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley.

Morantz joined Conservative national defence critic James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman) and Tory transport critic Stephanie Kusie (Calgary Midnapore) in a joint statement Thursday about the layoffs.

The statement criticized the Liberal government for failing to address the challenges facing the aviation industry in Wednesday's throne speech.

"Nobody understands safety more than people working in the aviation industry," Morantz said Friday.

"It's really incumbent on the government to work with the aviation industry, with Nav Can, with the airport authorities and the airlines, to help save these workers' jobs, so that they can do what they're supposed to do."

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this article stated Nav Canada will close its Winnipeg operations. In fact, only its flight information centre will close.
    Sep 25, 2020 2:43 PM CT

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