WestJet flight attendants claim they are paid less than the minimum wage

Some WestJet flight attendants claim that the airline usually pays its crew less than the minimum wage, since agents are only paid for the hours they spend in the air and not for their actual work time.

The industry standard for flight attendant compensation is based on the time between flight and landing, although most airlines also offer compensation for the time spent by flight attendants in airports before and after flights.

WestJet does not do this, and it has become a sticking point with flight attendants because the minimum wage is increasing across the country. The airlines’ compensation for flight attendants could, in fact, violate federal labor rules, according to one union.

Billionaire365 spoke with two flight attendants who each have more than 10 years of experience with WestJet and whose identity has been protected for fear of reprisal.

WestJet does not pay for its flight attendants like other airlines, it’s frustrating.

A WestJet employee

Flight attendants say that the way WestJet calculates their wages puts them at a disadvantage.

For example, crew members on a one-hour flight between Calgary and Vancouver could end up with a four-hour shift between arriving at the Calgary airport and leaving Vancouver airport.

WestJet would pay its employees for the one hour flight. For example, the rate of $26 per hour spread over four hours is equivalent to $6.50 per hour. This is well below the minimum wage in Alberta, $13.60, and in British Columbia, $11.35.

Full-time flight attendants have a base salary of $25.29 per flight hour, and the maximum salary is $ 47.50 per hour. Based on the expectation of about 80 hours of theft per month, the annual base salary starts at about $ 24,500 and peaks at about $46,500.

“A high school student will see the hourly rate of $ 25 and think it’s fantastic, not understanding that it’s per flight hour, not hours of work,” said a flight attendant.

“Everyone is talking about minimum wage increases and is angry at Tim Hortons, whose employees deserve better. What about the person responsible for your safety aboard an airplane? “Yes, they serve you coffee most of the time, but it’s not really their job,” says the employee.

Compensation is “generous” says airline

The Calgary-based carrier’s flight attendants have been trying to organize for a number of years, and they would like that to happen, especially as a result of the unionization of pilots, who are currently negotiating their first contract.

WestJet denied interview requests and did not respond to requests for clarification of information.

In an email sent to CBC News, WestJet stated, “We are providing our cabin crew members with a salary and total compensation that offers [a] variety of unique features.”

WestJet offers full-time crew members benefits, an optional share purchase plan and profit sharing when the company is profitable.

“WestJet’s profit sharing is among the best in the airline industry,” the statement said. “We believe that the total compensation offered to our cabin crew is generous and compares favorably with carriers of similar size. ”

Federal rules

The way WestJet pays for its flight attendants could be a violation of federal labor rules, which provide that federally-regulated industries, such as aviation, must pay employees for all the work they do.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said it was looking at whether federal labor rules were being broken. “It’s a possibility we’re exploring,” said David Fleming, a CUPE representative who has been working for about a year organizing WestJet flight attendants.

Mr. Fleming does not provide timelines for possible unionization, he only says “things are going well”.

He stated that the challenges facing unionization include turnover among flight attendants and the difficulty of communicating with crew members who, by the very nature of their jobs, are in transit most of the time.

Flight attendants who spoke to CBC News say they do not want to quit because they appreciate the flexibility of the position and they will lose their seniority by joining another airline .

Comparison of airline remuneration

The scenario of the flight attendant flying between Calgary and Vancouver would result in a salary increase if he worked for another airline. If the flight attendant worked for the Jazz carrier and was on the same shift, he would receive a minimum wage of 4.5 hours instead of the hour paid by WestJet.

The union representing Jazz’s flight attendants has ensured that there are daily minimums in its contracts.

“It is essential to ensure that employees do not come to work and potentially go into debt because of the expenses they incur to get to work and the wages they receive for the amount of work they do. when they show up, “said Trevor Beattie, president of the union representing the crew of the carrier Jazz.

The airline and the union bind the departure wages of flight attendants to twice the minimum wage in the province where the employee is based.

“That means the starting salary in Toronto for our flight attendants is $ 28 an hour,” said Beattie.

It also states that at Jazz, there is a standard for the minimum number of paid hours for flight attendants, whether they report to work or not.

In another example, if a flight attendant completes a 12-hour shift with four hours of flying, he will receive four hours of pay at WestJet, six hours at Jazz and eight hours at Air Canada. Jazz pays for flight time or half-pay for each hour of work, whichever is greater. Air Canada pays the total number of flying hours or total time at work less four hours, whichever is greater.

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