It's Time To Talk About Pay

A Message From Your VP:

I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about the recent transition to a semi-monthly pay-system. In addition to the slew of emails I’ve received from members concerned about the impact on their personal finances, I’ve been forced to sit down and really think about what this transition to a different pay system means for us. 

It was our hope, when this solution was presented, that it would rectify the longstanding issues we’ve had with our paycheques. Hours missing, block growth not properly calculated, pairing pickups being overlooked... All of this occurred as a result of a very short reconciliation period between the end of a two-week pay period, and the payday Friday. The amount of time to reconcile everyone’s pay and get paycheques out was limited, which resulted in a higher margin of error. The new pay system rectifies all of these issues by providing crew pay with a longer reconciliation period, the result of which will be fewer errors on your paycheques.

But the transition has sparked an interesting debate, one that has led me to realize there are two entirely separate issues at play here.

What if the issue we are looking at, now that we’ve rectified the ongoing pay errors, is the fact that your average, middle-of-the-pack Flight Attendant is living paycheque-to-paycheque? Or that your top-end Flight Attendant hardly makes any more money than they did 10, even 15 years ago? 

We know that this is not an issue unique to Flight Attendants. In fact, the average income of workers in Canada has not seen a dramatic shift at anytime in the last forty years. In 1980, according to Statistics Canada, the average annual income for Canadians was $38,800.00. By 2016, it had barely moved, sitting at $45,400.00. 

By comparison, the cost of housing and associated costs of living have risen to a point where they are completely disproportionate to the median income. One only needs to go back to 2005, when, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the price of your average home in Canada sat around $225,000.00. When you compare that to the average price of over $500,000.00 in 2019, it’s no wonder workers are feeling the strain now more than ever. 

So let me make a bold suggestion, that perhaps we are missing the forest for the trees here. Perhaps, our frustration at the financial implications of this pay system transition is misdirected. Perhaps the real issue, is that we do not make enough money. We do not make the kind of money we need to live a lifestyle that was within reach ten, or twenty years ago.

And let me make an even bolder suggestion:

Like so many of the pressing issues that we face as a society, this one will only get worse. If we do not take action now to ensure that workers are getting a fair shake, we will continue to see the average Canadian’s financial situation worsen. We will continue to make less money than we need, and the gap between our income and the cost of living will spread to an insurmountable point, while the debts we carry grow, and our retirement savings get used up in a feeble attempt to live comfortably and provide for our families. 

So maybe, just maybe, instead of demanding that our pay system be reverted to the problem-ridden system we just got rid of, we start demanding real change. Perhaps we start demanding that corporations pay employees their fair share, not only here, but across the country. 

Surely we deserve, at the very least, to be able to afford to live comfortably, day-to-day, without having to depend on overtime or a second job to pay the bills. We should be able to maintain a healthy work-life balance, while supporting our families and putting aside enough money to retire at a healthy age.

In summary, I firmly support the change in pay structure, as does the rest of your Executive. We believe that this is the best solution to the ongoing pay issues that have dogged us for years. With that being said, I hear the Members loud and clear when they tell me they are struggling to get by, I just wonder whether the new pay system is really to blame for that. If we didn’t depend on Per-Diem to form a part of our overall income, and instead, relied on it to replace the cost of food while we are travelling for work (as it was intended before workers in our industry became increasingly underpaid), we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. It is my sincerest hope that we are approaching a point where, as workers, not only in airlines, but across the country, we can wake up to the hard truth:

We don’t make the kind of money we need to get by. And at the end of the day, when it comes to how we are paid, it doesn’t matter how many slices you cut it into, if there’s not enough pie to share, people are going to be hungry.

I hope I have expressed my reflections on this topic appropriately, and would love to begin to bring this discussion to the forefront of our minds as we move forward together.

In Solidarity,

Jamie Loiselle, 

Vice President, CUPE 4070

To see the statistics referenced in the above post, follow the links below:

[on average annual income]

[on average mortgage costs]