Air Canada to rehire 16,500 laid-off workers with help of federal government’s wage subsidy

Air Canada plans to rehire thousands of workers the airline recently laid off because of COVID-19, after negotiations with the federal government to confirm that the airline would qualify for a wage subsidy program.

As first reported by The Toronto Star, the airline announced that more than 16,000 of its recently laid-off workers will be put back on the payroll.

The rehiring will be retroactive to March 15 and the wage subsidy program is expected to last until at least June 6.

Earlier this month, Ottawa expanded its wage subsidy program so that it could cover more companies, including larger ones. Originally it was targeted only at small and medium-sized businesses, but it has since been extended to cover just about any Canadian company that has seen its revenues plunge by 30 per cent because of COVID-19.

Canada’s airline industry has seen a catastrophic reduction in demand due to lockdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Air Canada says its seat capacity is down by almost 90 per cent since the crisis began.

Unions have signed off on the plan

“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,” Air Canada’s president and CEO Calin Rovinescu said in a news release Wednesday morning.

“We are trying to keep as many of our employees as possible during the crisis and this measure will certainly help.”

Once operations return to normal, Rovinescu said, the company will return “as many employees as possible to active status.”

The airline also said that all of the unions that represent the company’s workers have signed off on the plan.


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