Pilots: First Air Should Be Honest about Impact of Job Cuts
management’s public statements, First Air’s plan to lay off more than 10 percent
of its flight crews could have an extensive negative impact on the airline’s
The airline is being disingenuous when it states that flight crew member
layoffs and the closure of First Air’s northernmost jet base will not affect
other aircraft types, said FAB MEC chair F/O Devin Lyall.
“These layoffs are a major blow to the pilot group and will have a ripple
effect throughout the entire system. Some pilots may opt to displace more junior
pilots, which could require even more pilots to transition to different aircraft
types and undergo lengthy, expensive retraining. It can’t help but create some
disruptions,” Lyall said.
On Nov. 8, First Air management sent layoff notices to 15
of the airline’s 142 pilots and flight engineers. First Air cited economic
reasons as justification for the layoffs, and the Company has not yet ruled out
the possibility of more job cuts.
Lyall said the union is disappointed that all eight Boeing 737 pilot
positions in Yellowknife will be eliminated and replaced by only three extra
pilots at the airline’s Edmonton base.
“We understand the economics of the situation, but we were the only airline
with 737 crews based in Yellowknife, and it’s very disappointing to see our
northern jet base closing,” said Lyall, who is a Lockheed Hercules pilot based
First Air also announced plans to cut three crews from its Hercules cargo
fleet, which will affect even more pilot and flight engineer positions.
The layoff notices come after failed conciliation talks between the Company
and ALPA, which have been at the bargaining table for two years. Over that same
period, First Air has had three different chief executive officers and three
different Flight Operations vice presidents.
The ALPA chairman said that with so many changes in management in the last
few years, there have been several instances where pilots were laid off in
attempts to become more efficient, only to be brought back a few months later.
“For this round of layoffs to occur, the Company actually had to first recall
pilots that were laid off at the beginning of the summer,” Lyall said.
Despite the challenges, First Air pilots and flight engineers remain
committed to providing safe, reliable, and efficient aviation services to the
North, he said.