Air Canada rehires 16,000 employees with stimulus funds

The over 16,000 Air Canada employees who were laid off a week ago as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will be rehired immediately.

Over 16,000 Air Canada employees who were laid off just a week ago due to the coronavirus pandemic will be rehired immediately after the airline giant secured a deal with the federal government for a wage subsidy package, The Star. These funds are part of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

Air Canada announced the mass rehiring after negotiations with federal officials and its union were settled with the company being eligible for a 75 percent wage subsidy through the new COVID-19 air package. Due to a lack of physical work for them to perform, the Air Canada employees won't return to work, however they will remain on payroll.

“Furloughed employees will get returned to payroll but will not be brought back to active duty status (i.e. come back to work) as there is no work for them given we have reduced our schedule by approximately 90 percent,” wrote Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesperson for Air Canada in an email. “By being brought back to payroll, they will get full benefits and stay connected to the company.”

On April 1, The federal government launched the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). The aid package is aimed at helping companies that have lost at least 30 percent of their revenues as a direct result of the pandemic, for which Air Canada qualifies.

Originally, the wage subsidy program was only intended to help small and medium-sized businesses but it was recently extended to cover larger companies, such as airlines.

The employees being rehired will receive their pay retroactive to March 15 and can continue to receive payment via the CEWS package as far as June 6.

“The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy is an extremely important program to help employees and employers during this time of crisis, and as one of Canada’s largest employers most affected by COVID-19, we want to acknowledge the leadership of the Government of Canada in introducing it,” said Calin Rovinescu, CEO of Air Canada, in a press release.

According to the same press release, Rovinescu has agreed to give up 100 percent of his salary, alongside Michael Rousseau, Air Canada’s chief financial officer.