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.”