The labor union that represents the cabin crew of a WestJet flight recently utilized as a political platform by Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has claimed that they are being wrongfully accused by the company for the controversy.
The incident took place on a Sunday evening when Poilievre took to the flight’s PA system to deliver a brief speech to the passengers en route to Calgary. Recordings of the speech began circulating on the internet shortly after, garnering mixed reactions over the propriety of his actions.
WestJet has since released a statement clarifying that the flight was available to the general public, but had been deliberately coordinated to cater to delegates returning from the Conservative Party of Canada’s convention held in Quebec City. The company also pointed out that Poilievre had duly informed WestJet’s operational leadership about his plan for the speech, with the flight crew possessing the final authority on whether to allow it.
Conversely, CUPE Alberta, the representative body of those workers, has come forward to assert that the crew had no say in the decision to give Poilievre access to the PA system for his address.
In a statement released on social media, Alia Hussain, president of CUPE Local 4070, expressed distress over WestJet management permitting Poilievre to use the public address system for his political purpose, and their subsequent attempt to pin the blame on the cabin crew.
She highlighted WestJet’s policy that restricts the use of the PA system to the operating crew and criticized the pressure placed on any flight crew to adopt “a political stance”.
According to the statement, it shows poor judgement on part of both WestJet and Pierre Poilievre to have staged the event, which put the cabin crew in a difficult position having to handle potential passenger complaints.
The labor union, CUPE Alberta, has thus called on WestJet and Pierre Poilievre for an apology.
Meanwhile, following enquiries from CTV News, WestJet confirmed that the allowance for non-flight crew members to use the PA system was a rare occurrence, allowed only for special circumstances. However, the company would be revisiting the adherence to this policy following the contentious incident.
Acknowledging Pierre Poilievre’s impromptu speech onboard the plane, a WestJet spokesperson said the flight had been specially scheduled to fulfil the influx from the Conservative Party’s convention, and was predominantly occupied by their delegates. The party leader was given an opportunity to interact with the delegates.