Workers dump unresponsive Teamsters

Related story: "Teamsters win organized labor award"

Most-decertified union in U.S. notches a loss in Canada

After a five-year battle, Air Canada Jazz flight attendants have broken away from the Teamsters to form a union of their own. The newly-created group, the Canadian Flight Attendants Union (CFAU), represents 934 employees of the regional carrier.

"We're very proud – it was a lot of hard work," said Joslyn Dicks, president of the new union and a 20-year veteran flight attendant. "We've got to build confidence in the membership that they now have a union that understands their concerns."

The flight attendants were previously represented by Teamsters Canada Local 938.

Some flight attendants were unhappy with the Teamsters for accepting a deal that saw wage cuts for new employees at Jazz in 2004. At the time, the union argued that if it rejected the deal, Air Canada might dissolve the company.

The wage cuts mean as many as 300 of the union's newer flight attendants make only $19,000 a year, Dicks said. She said flight attendants also wanted to split with the Teamsters because the larger union left some decisions to union officials rather than the workers themselves.

The Teamsters could not immediately be reached for comment.

Flight attendants have tried to form their own union twice before. Their first attempt was rejected when the flight attendants couldn't get enough signatures on union cards. A second attempt fell short when workers filed the application at the wrong time.

Four hundred and sixty workers voted in favour of the new union in a mail-in vote, which closed Sept. 2, versus 178 who voted to stay with the Teamsters.

Dicks said the new union, which is effective immediately, will give decision-making power to its members and start fighting Jazz's two-tiered pay system, under which new employees have a lower pay scale.

"We understand the issues," she said. "We want to build a good relationship with the company."

The CFAU was formed specifically for Jazz, but Dicks said she hopes it could one day represent flight attendants in other workplaces.

"We will build towards having more members," she said.


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