Air travel disruptions to continue amid labor shortage: experts
The airline industry is warning that flight disruptions will be inevitable this coming holiday travel season as ongoing labor shortages extend.
In a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, representatives of the travel industry said they were having trouble retaining certain workers, such as pilots and air traffic controllers, heading into the busy winter season.
Air Line Pilots Association Canada president Tim Perry told MPs that airlines are not doing enough to keep pilots because they have withheld pay increases.
To refer to this country’s pilot problem as a labor shortage “is an oversimplification,” Perry said.
He said airlines rely on temporary foreign workers to fill the employment gap, which in some cases raises concerns about training and safety.
Pilots in other jurisdictions are essentially disconnected from their union and can undermine the entire collective bargaining process, Perry said.
New job opening numbers from Statistics Canada on Thursday show the country’s tight labor market continued in August, with job openings little changed from July.
The vacancy rate in the transportation warehouse industry was 5.9% in August, down a full percentage point from the previous month, but it remains one of the sectors with the highest vacancy rate.
Nick von Schoenberg, president of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, told the commission that there is a severe shortage of air traffic controllers, which has placed unacceptable demands on the workforce because there are not enough controllers to meet the requirements.
“Historical short-staffing means the system has always relied on controllers working large amounts of overtime to operate,” von Schoenberg said.
“This places unacceptable demands on staff as they are expected to work without regular support.”
The shortage of air traffic controllers existed long before the pandemic and won’t be addressed in time for next summer, von Schoenberg said, but he said it could be alleviated with some creative solutions.
Andrew Gibbons, WestJet’s vice president of external affairs, was also at the committee meeting and said the pandemic was the biggest crisis his company and industry had ever faced.
“We’re not out of the woods,” Andrew Gibbons said. “We are still dealing with the consequences of this crisis.”
Von Schoenberg said the pace and strength of the aviation sector’s recovery has led to a shortage of air traffic controllers, which is causing delays.
He asked NAV Canada for a reliable training system and said the corporation must do whatever it takes to retain employees.
The National Airlines Council of Canada and Nav Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 27, 2022.
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