Did you catch the story in the media yesterday about the Air Canada pilot who mistook planet Venus for an approaching plane and put his jet into a sudden steep dive? The finding of the Transportation Board released yesterday was that the pilot was fatigued and shouldn’t have been flying. Scary story.
Did you also catch the link to the ongoing labour relations issues at Air Canada?
Recall that some Air Canada pilots have called in ‘fatigued’ in recent weeks. As I’ve noted before, pilots in Canada are not permitted to fly if they are “suffering or likely to suffer from fatigue”. In their Charter challenge filed recently, the Pilots’ Association has alleged that Air Canada pilots are flying right now when they are fatigued because they are under threat of a big fines if they do not report to work thanks to the Feds Stay-at-Work legislation. Here is what the Pilots alleged in their Charter application:
ACPA reminded its members oftheir statutory obligation not to fly if they feel unfit to do so, Air Canada responded by informing pilots that such actions will constitute a “strike” under the Canada Labour Code and, by implication, under the Protecting Air Service Act. As a result, Air Canada pilots are flying despite being unfit to do so out of fear of being prosecuted criminally under the Protecting Air Service Act.
Last week, the CIRB ruled that some pilots that called in fatigued had engaged in an unlawful strike (thanks Lancaster House for tweeting the order). Although the Feds’ law allows for fines against pilots of up to $1000 per day for engaging in a ‘strike’, no fine was imposed this time, I assume because Air Canada did not seek a fine. Perhaps the employer is concerned about the optics of fining pilots who claim they are fatigued. Could you imagine the fall out if a fatigued pilot makes another error like the one in the above story (or worse) in the current climate, when pilots are claiming they are worried about claiming fatigue due to the poisoned labour relations climate?
Recall the meaning of a ‘strike’. If pilots agree to call in fatigued, they are engaging in a strike. However, if they call in fatigued on their own, without any ‘common understanding’ with other pilots, then they are not on strike. I’m not sure how the Board decided there had been a strike, since the decision (linked to above) released last week doesn’t include any discussion of the facts. It looks like no evidence was called. Was there agreement of the parties that there was strike? If anyone knows what happened at the hearing, please let me know.