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Province asks feds to reverse Nav Canada’s decision to lay off air traffic controllers in Regina

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WATCH: The Saskatchewan government is the latest voice calling on Transport Canada to step in and pump the breaks on a review of air traffic control towers at a handful of airports across the country. – Feb 2, 2021

With the future of Regina’s air traffic control tower in limbo following a recent announcement made by Nav Canada to lay off all of the tower’s staff, the Saskatchewan government is asking the federal government to step in.

In a letter addressed to Canada’s Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Highways Fred Bradshaw asked him to reverse the layoffs in Regina and to hold off on any decision surrounding the future of the city’s air traffic control tower for at least one year.

Moe supported Bradshaw’s ask in a Facebook post Monday.

Read more: ‘Catastrophic reduction’ — Regina airport grapples with financial challenges, reduced travel demand

“The federal government needs to immediately reverse its decision to lay off air traffic controllers at Regina International Airport (YQR) and hit pause on any consideration of closing the control tower at YQR. Now is not the time to be making a decision like this,” Moe said in the Facebook post.

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“While the number of flights in and out of YQR is greatly reduced right now, this will change when we emerge from pandemic and YQR will be an important part of Regina’s and Saskatchewan’s strong economic recovery.”

Moe said he will be discussing the issue with other Canadian premiers in the coming days and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the next First Ministers call.

Regina MP not pleased after Nav Canada pays out $7M in bonuses amid layoff notices

Regina MP Michael Kram said he was “astonished” after learning Nav Canada handed out about $7 million in bonuses to 558 of its managers during the same time it was issuing layoff notices to more than 100 air traffic controllers across the country.

Kram first learned of the bonuses at a House of Commons Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities last Thursday. Kram sits on the committee.

“When I heard this testimony in committee I was astonished,” Kram said in a press release on Monday.

Read more: Regina airport traffic control tower in question after NAV Canada announces layoffs

“Where I come from, you get a bonus for doing a good job. If tearing down Canada’s air infrastructure, throwing people out of work, and devastating the post-COVID recovery of Canadian communities is what Nav Canada considers a good job, I’d hate to see what they consider a bad job.”

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Nav Canada confirmed to Global News the company paid $7 million to 558 managers at all levels of the organization, saying the money was from the company’s last fiscal year — September 2019 to August 2020.

“The management incentive program is a one-time payment that has been maintained but that has also been reduced significantly, reflective of our current realities while balancing the long-term need to retain leadership talent,” Nav Canada said in an emailed statement on Monday.

Kram describes the situation as “adding insult to injury.”

“Thanks to Nav Canada’s decision to close air traffic control towers, some airlines are considering consolidating their Saskatchewan service to Saskatoon,” Kram said.

“Our city may lose the ability to host major trade shows, conference, sporting and cultural events if the air traffic control tower shuts down.”

The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, the union that represents all air traffic controllers in Canada, brought the information forward at Thursday’s committee meeting.

Read more: Looming Air Canada cuts cause concern for Regina Airport Authority

Jerry Brodt, CATCA’s prairie regional vice-president, said a lot of ex-air traffic controllers become managers and had told him they were collecting bonuses, which he said they received in December.

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“There was disbelief,” Brodt said. “How could this company be laying off people which are the backbone of the corporation, any air navigation corporation, these air traffic controllers… and the managers were taking money.

“Nav Canada had done a good job in previous years of befriending us and making us a team. How can any employee go, ‘I’m losing my job, I now have a six months’ notice’ and then find out that these people gave themselves bonuses. It’s hard not to get angry.”

Nav Canada said it has taken a number of measures to drive down operating expenses down, including amongst its management workforce.

Click to play video: 'Regina airport traffic control tower in question after NAV Canada announces layoffs' Regina airport traffic control tower in question after NAV Canada announces layoffs
Regina airport traffic control tower in question after NAV Canada announces layoffs – Jan 31, 2021

It said 20 per cent of management jobs have been eliminated, management pay cuts have been made, as well as reductions to the pension plan applicable to management.

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In a statement to Global News Transport Canada said:

Transport Canada recognizes that passenger volumes continue to decline by almost 90%, and that all organizations need to re-evaluate their needs, including NAV CANADA.

Transport Canada is aware that NAV CANADA is reviewing their operations and considering reductions to its level of service at several sites.

NAV CANADA is not in a position to implement the proposed termination or reduction in the level of service until the Minister has been provided with a copy of NAV CANADA’s level of service review and has had a reasonable opportunity to review it.

Prior to any implementation of service level changes by NAV CANADA, Transport Canada must ensure that any reduction or termination of service proposed would not unacceptably increase the risk to aviation safety. No compromise on safety will be tolerated.

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