New Brunswick

Almost 100 workers laid off at Air Canada call centre in Saint John

Almost 100 employees have received layoff notices at the Air Canada call centre in Millidgeville amid sweeping, company-wide cuts announced by Air Canada in January.

98 workers at Millidgeville centre receive layoff notices, part of sweeping Air Canada cuts

Eighty-three workers at the Air Canada call centre in Millidgeville have received layoff notices. Combined with 15 layoffs issued in January, the call centre has laid off 98 employees this year. (Graham Thompson/CBC News)

Almost 100 employees have received layoff notices at the Air Canada call centre in Millidgeville amid sweeping, company-wide cuts announced by Air Canada in January.

The latest layoff notices, sent to workers on Feb. 12, affect 83 customer sales and service call centre agents, Unifor Airlines Sector director Leslie Dias confirmed in an email Wednesday. The call centre workers are represented by Unifor Local 2002.

Combined with 15 layoff notices issued in January, the call centre has lost 95 workers in 2021, Dias confirmed.

The cuts are the latest blow to workers in the airline industry, which has been hobbled by travel restrictions and drastically reduced demand for travel amid the pandemic.

In January, Air Canada announced it was suspending operations out of the Fredericton International Airport. That followed on the heels of a December 2020 decision to indefinitely suspend all flights out of the Saint John Airport.

On Feb. 9, the company announced it was cutting 1,500 more jobs and cancelling 17 more routes.  

The job cuts meant that Air Canada, Canada's largest airline, essentially cut its workforce in half, from roughly 40,000 people before the pandemic to about 20,000 today.  

Layoffs are part of 1,500 job cuts at Air Canada

The layoffs announced at the call centre in Millidgeville are part of the 1,500 layoffs announced on Feb. 9.

Air Canada media relations director Pascale Déry said in an email at that time that the airline "does not provide breakdowns" of layoffs by job description but noted that Air Canada was "temporarily reducing its unionized workforce by 1,500 people and by an as-yet-undetermined number of management positions."

In an earlier interview, Saint John Coun. John MacKenzie, in whose ward the affected call centre is located, said he had heard rumours of imminent layoffs at the call centre.

"It's really unfortunate," MacKenzie said. "I hate to see this, but I guess I'm not surprised ... if you're losing money every day, the bleeding has to stop."

MacKenzie said he'd like to see federal government step in to try to support the industry. 

"With the airlines going through what they're going through, I don't know how they can survive."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marie Sutherland is a web writer with CBC New Brunswick based in Saint John. You can reach her at marie.sutherland@cbc.ca.

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