Air­line re­verses course on poppy ban af­ter union re­ceives staff com­plaints


Air Canada has quickly backed down from an edict bar­ring its flight at­ten­dants from wear­ing Re­mem­brance Day pop­pies while in uni­form, af­ter out­rage erupted over the move.

In a no­tice posted Mon­day morn­ing on an in­ter­nal mes­sag­ing ser­vice, Renée Smith-Valade, Air Canada’s vice-pres­i­dent of in-flight ser­vice, re­minded flight at­ten­dants of the no-poppy rule un­der the com­pany’s uni­form pol­icy.

“Firstly, I strongly en­cour­age any­one who wants to wear a poppy to ob­serve and re­spect Re­mem­brance Day to do so when not in uni­form,” she wrote.

“As a com­pany we have cho­sen to show our deep re­spect and hon­our for our vet­er­ans with an on-board an­nounce­ment on all flights world­wide.”

Smith-Valade noted that “our uni­form pol­icy is clear and we ask you to re­spect it,” and goes on to em­pha­size a lan­guage pin is per­mit­ted along with one other com­pany-au­tho­rized pin, such as an award of ex­cel­lence, ser­vice or union pin.

“Our mem­bers were ob­vi­ously fu­ri­ous. They thought the de­ci­sion was beyond ab­surd,” said Michel Cournoyer, pres­i­dent of CUPE’s Air Canada com­po­nent, which rep­re­sents flight at­ten­dants, who have worn pop­pies in pre­vi­ous years with no is­sues. “Lots of peo­ple were com­plain­ing. I re­ceived com­plaints from flight at­ten­dants who said man­agers asked them to re­move their pop­pies,” he said.

A few hours later, Cournoyer said the com­pany re­versed its de­ci­sion.

He added avi­a­tion and the mil­i­tary have long been linked, with for­mer mil­i­tary mem­bers now work­ing at the air­line.

Back in 2006, the air­line even painted pop­pies on air­craft to take the mes­sage of re­mem­brance across the coun­try, and con­tin­ued to do so for sev­eral years.

In her re­ver­sal post, Smith-Valade said: “The de­ci­sion has in­deed been re­con­sid­ered and the wear­ing of pop­pies is sup­ported. My apolo­gies for the angst this has caused for some.

“For those who choose to do so please wear your pop­pies while in uni­form with pride,” she added.

CUPE’s Cournoyer said while he was pleased the pol­icy has been re­versed, it re­mains a clear ex­am­ple of how de­ci­sion-mak­ing at the in­flight de­part­ment is poor and man­agers should have con­sulted union lead­ers.

Air Canada spokesper­son Peter Fitz­patrick said in an emailed state­ment that the com­pany has reg­u­la­tions on wear­ing non-ser­vice pins to main­tain a con­sis­tent uni­form, but it has been re­vised to per­mit the poppy.

“Many Air Canada em­ploy­ees have ties with the mil­i­tary and we hon­our the con­tri­bu­tion and sac­ri­fice of serv­ing mem­bers of the armed forces as well as of our vet­er­ans,” Fitz­patrick said.

“We have apol­o­gized to our in-flight crews for any con­fu­sion sur­round­ing this is­sue.”

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