April 29, 2021
Member Weekly Update – Edition #15
Please find the latest edition of weekly updates to the membership about ongoing Union business.
At a national level, CATCA is continuing to address a number of issues. Most significantly, the outstanding letters of surplus to our members in Gander, Moncton, Montreal and Edmonton FIR’s and the associated grievances, as well as parallel discussions with the Company, are ongoing. Maintaining the employment of our members is our highest priority. At the same time, other related issues are continuing to linger and compound in their gravity, which, in addition to threats of layoffs, affects our membership’s mental health. CATCA continues to question the staffing policies of the Company. Despite assertions to the contrary, many units were short-staffed prior to the pandemic. Cost-cutting measures by the Company as a response to financial pressure brought on by the pandemic are going to compound this situation further as traffic levels continue to increase during the recovery. The long-term repercussions of these initiatives will be significant on our membership as well as the system overall.
Numerous towers across the country are facing immediate staff shortages. Units providing service to the general aviation sector have already seen traffic return to, or exceed, pre-pandemic levels while staffing is reduced and declining. There is increasing use of single-stand staffing for periods that exceed the Company’s own stated fatigue guidelines. Limiting traffic and imposing restrictions on service to the stakeholders has become standard mitigation for the Company, and there is no plan in place which would see that change. The pressure on members in these units is immense, which further compounds the problem by resulting in burnout.
Even in units where the traffic has not yet recovered, such as most of the towers serving more commercial traffic and the ACC’s, the coming recovery will surely rapidly outpace the ability of the Company to provide adequate numbers of controllers. Long training times and pre-existing shortfalls will make it impossible to keep pace with the average attrition rate, let alone achieve truly sufficient numbers.
Staffing has been the most significant issue facing NAV Canada for years, and it will become more severe than ever as traffic recovery unfolds. What is the solution? First, NAV Canada needs to recognize that they will need all of our members. Every employee with an air traffic control license represents an invaluable resource to this Company. It makes no sense to lay off qualified controllers now when there is already an urgent need for their skills in numerous locations across the country. The members currently facing layoff will be required where they are presently located. Surplus letters must be rescinded now.
Second, there is no means of improving the overall staffing numbers for this summer. The only means of filling seats is the increased use of overtime to provide coverage that, at a minimum, meets the Company’s own fatigue guidelines and reduces the workload and stress on our members as they try to provide the service this year that stakeholders rightly expect.
Third, meaningful efforts at training new controllers must be initiated without delay. Staffing through overtime will be facing further limitations as the Company continues to implement measures aimed at addressing fatigue. Couple that with the changing values of our workforce, which will likely express a reduced appetite and uptake of overtime in the future, and it is clear that more bodies will be needed.
For this summer it is too late. For next summer, the pressure is on now. Training programs should start by addressing the needs of the units that already have their traffic back and then expand to meet the entirely predictable demands of the remaining units, especially those with more substantial training requirements. The best way to approach this issue is for NAV Canada to utilize the help and expertise that CATCA can provide to make the most impactful solution possible.
This is the plan of action that NAV Canada must take to prevent the impending staffing crisis. If NAV Canada hopes to preserve its reputation as a world-leading ANS, anything less than this is a reckless and losing gamble. Beyond reputation, our members’ health and well-being and the provision of safe, orderly, and expeditious service to the Company’s stakeholders and the flying public are at stake.
People are this Company’s most significant asset, and we need more people. NAV Canada’s top priority for service delivery is safety. Improper and inadequate staffing directly undermines this commitment.
On Behalf of the Executive Board;
Doug Best Scott Loder
President Executive Vice President
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