More Than 450 CanJet Employees to Lose Jobs

Lawyers for CanJet's pilots are reviewing the airline's handling of a major downsizing amid accusations the company is ending its regular flights to dismantle its pilots' union.

Officials with Air Line Pilots Association International met Thursday with just under 100 pilots affected by CanJet's decision to discontinue the regularly scheduled flights and move exclusively into the charter business.

Capt. Scott Bringloe said a legal team is going over the way the low-cost carrier distributed release forms and severance packages to employees earlier this week to see if it was in violation of the Canadian Labour Code.

''The company's restructuring proposals ... fall significantly short of the requirements of the law,'' he said after a meeting with the pilots in Halifax, where the airline is based.

''We have no reason to believe that the company's actions are motivated by anything other than anti-union animus and are consistent with the continuing disregard for its legal obligations.''

Capt. Dan Adamus said the company left the severance documents in staff mailboxes, giving them a deadline of Sept. 12 to sign them. He said the union had no warning that the layoffs were coming, something the company should have done under the provisions of the code.

Adamus also said the company could be in violation of the code if it's found it attempted to secure voluntary termination through direct negotiation with employees. By not advising the union of the downsizing and by giving employees a deadline to sign the documents, the association says the company is preventing CanJet staff from being involved in restructuring measures.

The association has advised the pilots not to sign the documents, something that will prevent them from collecting severance.

CanJet, which stands to lose about 450 employees in the move, has applied for an exemption under the labour code that, if successful, would allow it to avoid having a restructuring committee.

''That is the big one,'' said Adamus. ''We need to be part of the solution.''

The airline stunned the industry Tuesday when it blamed ''rising business risks'' for its decision to shift its attention to charter flights.

CanJet, owned by IMP Group International Inc., issued a brief statement saying it would offer refunds or alternative travel arrangements for anyone booked on CanJet flights after Sept. 10. It also said many of CanJet's 500 employees would be offered positions with IMP.

A document obtained by a Halifax newspaper suggests 376 people in Halifax will have their employment ''terminated,'' while another 80 in Toronto will be let go.

The airline expanded quickly as it rose from the ashes of the Canada 3000 bankruptcy four years ago, but analysts have said its growth was limited by the fact it was reliant on its main routes in Atlantic Canada.

CanJet first took to the skies with six aircraft in late 2000, but the no-frills carrier reported heavy losses and was shut down less than seven months later when its parent announced it would be sold to Canada 3000 Inc. for $7 million in an all-stock deal.

While CanJet won praise for offering low air fares on its eastern Canadian routes, it simply couldn't fill its planes with enough passengers.

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