Canadian air traffic control firm slashing jobs as coronavirus hammers aviation industry

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WATCH: The Canadian aviation industry is among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. – Sep 22, 2020

NAV Canada is cutting 14 per cent of its workforce and citing the ongoing financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the significant hardships facing the air travel industry.

The company says it has until now managed by a combination of using the federal wage subsidy, offering voluntary retirement packages to workers, deferring wage increases and reducing compensation for management, but that those measures have not been enough.

READ MORE: Canada’s airlines agree to new rules to help with contact tracing

In a press release, the company that provides air traffic control staff and services to Canadian airports said it is laying off a total of 720 people, but that includes those who took voluntary retirements in the spring, as well as cuts made to temporary workers when the pandemic hit.

“Undoubtedly, the company is in the midst of the toughest moment in its history,” said the company’s President and CEO, Neil Wilson, in a press release.

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“NAV CANADA is not immune to the economic downturn and severe financial impacts the aviation industry is experiencing.”

READ MORE: At least 561 flights in Canada had possible coronavirus exposures since pandemic began

It is also closing two flight information centres: one in Winnipeg and one in Halifax.

But NAV Canada said the cuts will not decrease the air traffic control information for pilots and dispatchers, adding the remaining flight information centres will pick up additional duties.

“Air traffic services will not be impacted by this change,” the company said.

The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting global restrictions placed on air travel have had a significant financial impact on airlines around the world.

But airlines have come under heavy criticism for not refunding the costs of cancelled flights to consumers and for refusing to guarantee blocks on booking middle seats even as public health authorities urge people to take physical distancing seriously.

Physical distancing urges people to stay two metres apart from anyone they do not live with or who is not a part of their contact bubble.

Canadian airlines have defended the decision not to guarantee a block on middle seat bookings during testimony before a House of Commons committee earlier this year, saying doing so would not allow them to break even on the cost of operating flights.

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