Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Posted Thursday, October 1, 2020 at 1:40 p.m. EDT

Last updated Thursday, October 1, 2020 5:56 p.m. ET

Union leaders call on Ottawa to provide immediate financial assistance and rapid viral testing to a Airline company industry devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The heads of two pilots’ unions and Unifor on Thursday called on the federal government to offer carriers loans totaling $ 7 billion at an interest rate of 1%.

The requested 10-year credit plan includes loan guarantees and direct financial assistance, but no grants and aligns with support from other countries, they said.

the unions also called on Ottawa to support the approval and deployment of rapid COVID-19 tests for passengers as a step towards easing travel restrictions and quarantine rules.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis in the Canadian aviation industry, and the recovery could take years to come,” said Tim Perry, head of the Canadian section of the Air Line Pilots Association, during of a press conference in Toronto.

“Make no mistake, decimating this industry today will hinder the recovery of Canadians tomorrow and beyond,” said Robert Giguere, head of the Air Canada Pilots Association.

The task forces have differed over the best approach to a bailout.

The Canadian union public sector workers, who was not part of the media event Thursday, said any government support should include “important exclusions to support workers, rather than just protecting company bottom lines.”

CUPE, which represents 15,000 flight attendants, also said government stake in companies should be a condition of any federal aid, with parallels to Germany’s $ 14 billion bailout of Lufthansa, which saw the government take a 20 percent share of the Airline company.

However, Unifor President Jerry Dias said government involvement should only be considered if a Airline company defaults on a loan.

Governments around the world have contributed $ 123 billion to help the Airline company industry, said Dias. Canada, for its part, avoided sectoral support, instead deploying financial assistance such as wage subsidies offered to many industries.

Ottawa also delayed the requirement Airline companys to reimburse customers whose flights have been canceled due to the pandemic, which could save carriers hundreds of millions of dollars. On the other hand, the European and American authorities demanded Airline companys reimburse travelers, on top of terms attached to financial lifelines that range from limiting dividends and executive bonuses to reducing carbon emissions and removing ownership issues for the government.

Travel restrictions and dry demand continue to weigh on the Airline company and tourism industries. More than 30,000 employees have been laid off or on leave at Air Canada and WestJet Airline companys Ltd. Passengers to Canada fell 90% year over year in July, even though the 845,000 travelers were nearly double the number the month before, according to Statistics Canada.

“We are in a desperate situation. Air Canada spends about $ 15 million a day in cash … It’s totally unbearable, ”said Dias, whose union represents 15,000 industry workers, including pilots, baggage handlers and customer sales agents.

Dias praised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government for extending Canada’s emergency wage subsidy until next summer, but noted that some carriers like Air Canada did not sign, leaving thousands former employees with no stable income. Meanwhile, the Large Employers Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF), a federal program that grants loans starting at $ 60 million to large businesses, “just isn’t working” due to “incredible restrictions ”and about 8% interest, he said.

In its Speech from the Throne last week, the Liberal government pledged to “support regional roads” but did not provide any details.

“Sadly, the Trudeau government continues to leave the thousands of Canadians who depend on the aviation industry in the dark about how or if they will have jobs to return to,” said Conservative transportation spokesperson Stephanie Kusie , who called the LEEFF program “broken and untenable.”

The National Airline companys The Council of Canada has welcomed the call union leaders and supported their call for the government to adopt a rapid test regime as a critical step towards recovery, which remains at “zero stage,” President Mike McNaney said in a statement.

Air Canada – one of the four board members – announced Thursday that it has finalized an order for rapid COVID-19 tests carried out by Abbott Laboratories based in the United States. The healthcare company’s point-of-service kits, known as ID NOW tests, will be taken voluntarily by employees, Air Canada said.

The deployment follows Air Canada’s month-long pilot project in partnership with McMaster HealthLabs to voluntarily test passengers at Toronto’s Pearson Airport. Preliminary study results suggest that “a test-based strategy may be an available and safe alternative to the 14-day quarantine” required of arriving passengers, said Dr Jim Chung, chief medical officer of ‘Air Canada.

WestJet Airline companys Ltd. and Vancouver International Airport are also launching a project to test passengers voluntarily for the coronavirus on certain departing flights, as part of a larger push by carriers to show they are serious in tackling the viral spread. as they attempt to bring the Canadians back to the skies. .

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 1, 2020.

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