Thank you, Madam Chair, and committee
My name is Jordan Bray-Stone. I am the regulatory and safety committee chairperson for the Canadian Union of Public Employees Airline Division. CUPE represents approximately 9,000 flight attendants at eight airlines in Canada.
Our topic today is the change in the ratio of flight attendants to passengers on Canadian airlines, which occurred recently. On August 1, 2015, Transport Canada changed the regulation requiring one flight attendant for every 40 passengers to one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats. This has meant, in many cases, a loss of at least one flight attendant on certain flights.
We have provided two documents to the committee, one that is an executive summary of our concerns, and another that is a fuller explanation of all issues, with supporting documentation, including references that provide extensive evidence supporting our claims, as requested by certain members of this committee.
As many of you aware, the previous government changed the regulation in 2015 after nearly two decades of intense industry pressure. This change was shrouded in secrecy, rushed through at the end of the previous government's mandate, and lacked public consultation. In fact, the regulation was never even published in part I of the Canada Gazette.
There are now fewer cabin crew to perform routine safety procedures and to respond to unpredictable in-flight events. At the same time, there's less regulatory oversight of the consequences.
As you can see in our larger submission, there are overwhelming fact-based investigations and review processes that have all come to the same conclusion, which is that a ratio of 1:50 is clearly not as safe as the previous ratio of 1:40, which itself had some concerning safety limitations.
Transport Canada's own reports, including ones that were suppressed for over a decade and only recently obtained by CUPE through a freedom of information request, could not be more clear. They state:
The arguments and issues raised by those who oppose this measure are persuasive that further reduction in the number of cabin crew can have a negative affect [sic] on safety and certainly will not enhance safety.
In fact, conclusions drawn by TC's then chief of cabin safety in 2001 included these:
I keep hearing that this is not a safety decision, but I disagree and the fact is that if the ratio was changed...there are definate safety implications and it would be a lowering of safety standards and that change becomes more and more evident as the aircraft size increases.
Speaking as your safety expert in this field, I not only do not support complete harmonization of the rule [with the U.S.], I am opposed to it.
We've heard in the past that this change is needed by Canadian airlines in order to compete against their southern competition. We do not believe this is true. Based on TC's own numbers, we estimate that there would be savings of approximately only 50 cents to a dollar per passenger per flight. For those supposed savings, significant new safety hazards have been introduced, and a severe drop in service provided to Canadians has resulted on many routes in particular.
Transport Canada has acknowledged that the ratio cannot provide an equivalent level of safety to 1:40 and has only agreed to say that 1:50 provides an “acceptable” standard. “Acceptable” is not an equivalent. “Acceptable” is not safe.
Furthermore, CUPE maintains that TC's 2003 risk assessment was flawed, was biased towards industry, and is now completely outdated and irrelevant given the numerous changes that have occurred in the industry since that time, particularly a move away from direct regulatory oversight.
This committee is the eyes and ears of the travelling public. We're asking you to urge the minister to reverse the decision of the previous government and restore the 1:40 ratio. At a minimum, we urge an independent review of the 1:50 ratio, including a new comprehensive risk assessment, with full stakeholder participation and meaningful remediation to any findings. We believe that an unbiased review will lead to the same conclusion that Transport Canada had in 2001, which is that the 1:50 ratio simply is not safe.
Also, we urge the minister and his officials to work with us to design more meaningful forms of ongoing consultation that recognize our unique knowledge of the industry and provide labour groups a more meaningful role in regulatory decision-making.
Finally, we ask for additional oversight by this committee of TC rule-making and regulatory duties.
I thank you very much for your time.