Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for January 11, 2013

Airline’s flight attendants say they love their jobs

Flight attendants with Air North have filed an application with the federal government to form a union.

By Ashley Joannou on January 11, 2013 at 4:25 pm


Photo by Whitehorse Star

Pictured Above: Joe Sparling and Steve Geick

Flight attendants with Air North have filed an application with the federal government to form a union.

The documents were sent to the Canada Industrial Relations Board earlier this week.

If approved, the group would be the first union at the locally-owned airline.

The flight attendants are seeking to be represented by the Yukon Employees Union (YEU).

However, they first need certification from the board, YEU president Steve Geick told the Star this week.

As for why the group of about 30 employees want to be unionized, Geick said that information will come out in time.

Now that the application has been filed, the next step is to have it accepted, he said.

“Then the next step in the process would be contacting management of Air North and starting to negotiate a first agreement, which is where any motivation will become apparent, when we start negotiating our first collective agreement.”

Geick said the employees have “expressed that they really loved their job and really loved working in the Yukon.”

The flight attendants at Air North do not work under a contract but the company does have internal policies regulating things like pay and working conditions, Air North president Joe Sparling said this week.

Sparling said he found out about the application Monday through a fax from the labour board.

Employees have not expressed to him what motivated their decision, he said, adding that the application took him by surprise.

“We certainly support the notion of having a mechanism where the employees can be represented as a group,” he told the Star.

“As our company grows, it’s certainly becoming more and more difficult to do business with employees on an individual basis, he said.

“Twenty years ago, that was the only way we dealt with employees. It was on an individual basis – usually me sitting across the table from them. We’ve obviously outgrown that.”

As for whether a union is the right way to go to create the mechanism he was talking about, Sparling wouldn’t say.

“I don’t think I’m at liberty to express a preference or provide comment on that,” he said.

An application to become a union requires the signatures from at least a simple majority of employees.

Geick would not say how much of the majority signed the initial application.

The case has been handed over to an investigator with the board, spokesperson Ginette Brazeau said Thursday.

“It will be processed, investigated by an officer, and then it will be sent to a panel of the board for determination.”

That process takes between 60 and 90 days on average, she said.

Air North will also have a chance to respond to the application.

“It needs to be a majority,” Geick said.

“So the employer may feel that some of the employees have supervisory or management-type duties that would exclude them from a union.

“So they get to file a response and we get to respond to their response. It’s the board that makes the decision.”

The company is required to post a notice to employees in the workplace to advise them of the application.

Geick said having unionized employees can be beneficial to both the employees and the company.

He rejects the idea that the relationship between a union and a company is automatically an adversarial one, insisting his role is more as a mediator.

“There’s always a time and a place for an adversarial role if it comes to that,” he said.

“I would rather go into open and frank conversation so we don’t get to a point where one party feels they need to take an adversarial role.”

Sparling said employees have always been a key part of the business.

“Our employees are the backbone of the company. We recognize that; we always have,” he said.

“We always endeavour to conduct ourselves in an open and transparent manner that best represents the interest of all of our stakeholders starting with our customers, our employees and our shareholders in exactly that order. We’ll continue to do that.”

Air North was founded on Feb. 1, 1977, initially as a charter business.

The company has more than 200 full and part-time employees, most of them based in the North.

The airline began scheduled service to Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary 11 years ago.

CommentsAdd a comment

Scare North

Jan 11, 2013 at 7:06 pm

If Air North is so great to its employees, this would not be occurring. I’m sick and tired of how great and magical everyone thinks Air North is. Sick and tired of reading letters in the paper because you had diarrhea and they rerouted the plane and you need to tell the whole world about it. The image that Air north projects is vastly different from reality. I know some employees and what they tell me makes me not want to ever fly Air north.


Jan 12, 2013 at 12:28 am

Wonderful news, can’t wait for the first job action to bite the hand that feeds….

Boris R

Jan 12, 2013 at 8:41 pm

First Union for the company and it came as a total surprise, probably indicates a serious communication issue with in the organization. Employees as the back bone is pretty fitting, I suppose Steve and YEU could be described as robaxacet.

June Jackson

Jan 13, 2013 at 12:02 am

Employee’s form into a union for only one reason: to pry more money/benefits out of the company and into their pocket. They’ll close down the business striking for a nickle. Do they know what a money grab the Union is going to make? At YTG we had 3 sometimes 4 lines of automatic withdrawals..Union dues, Strike dues..Special event dues..they will nickel and dime you to death.

The day of the effective Union is over.  All they will do now is take as much from the company as possible and give nothing in return.

If I were Mr. Sparling.. I’d close Air North down right now..Unless he can well afford the coming demands.  And its probably back to Air Canada for me as I won’t be able to afford the rate hikes he’ll likely need to institute to be able to stay in the air.. oh well..it was a good run.

BTW, Yes, I am Union.

Sick of YEU

Jan 13, 2013 at 12:26 am

Good for you flight attendants.My only recommendation would be to choose any other union than YEU if you want a union that actually will achieve something for you besides serve as a NDP puppet organization.
I am but one of many people who have no choice but to be member and fund this ‘union’. Try Teamsters or another worthwhile organization instead.

Jay Wrent

Jan 13, 2013 at 11:28 am

Air North is many things. It is a large, local, private employer. It provides a invaluable service to the Territory. It is known to be a good employer. It is a generous supporter of all things Yukon. It is appreciated by flyers and the public.

Whatever the outcome of this action, I hope that Air North continues to prosper and grow.

Stan Rogers

Jan 13, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I hope the union happens without a lot of bloodletting.

It’s a little odd that Air North is seemingly a good employer yet the union thing was a complete surprise. This suggests there is not great communication or there may be a real imbalance between the management and employees. Many employers in Yukon facing a similar initiate would be finding reasons to fire people. We will have to see what Joe does in the next few days and weeks.

Friend of the flight attendants

Jan 14, 2013 at 8:19 pm

People you should not assume that this is all about money.

I know that some would like to receive the same respect from management that they give all the passengers.  I believe if management would have been listening and trying to correct some of the issues it never would have gotten to this point.

So wait and see what the flight attendants want before you all judge them.


Jan 15, 2013 at 12:44 am

Air North before union ‘no problem, can do’
Air North after union ‘that’s not my job’

not a loyalist

Jan 15, 2013 at 8:05 am

it is not hard to figure out that the flight attendants have no say in their job or future. F.As. have been smiling with shiiite! in their mouth for a long time. I would guess all the F.As. have been hired and trained locally, then they find out what others make in the big world and it leaves a bad taste in their mouth.
This is typical for the Yukon with this giant imaginary wall around it. It is hard for new ideas to get in.
Good for all you F.As show the big dog that there is choices!

Bob Graham

Jan 15, 2013 at 11:37 am

Air North will probably find out in the end, that one poor, autocratic manager/supervisor treated many employees poorly and laid the seeds for union intervention! The owner needs to put out feelers as to what prompted this? If it can be fixed, everyone saves money, employees for union dues, employer for labour/professional or lawyer!

Sound of Wrong Buzzer

Jan 16, 2013 at 1:43 am

The posters here weeping for the Flight Attendants need to wake up, as do the Air North Flight Attendants.  Specifically, a small minority of Flight Attendants have bullied the uneducated majority into thinking that they are automatically entitled to a shiny collective agreement a la the Star Alliance or One World group.  Time to wake up kids! You have little in the way of transferable skills… Air North has done a lot in the past to treat you on a one-on-one basis- you can kiss that goodbye, along with many small company perks that will disappear in union negotiations. This will be an expensive exercise in removing money from your pocket and the company’s. As a group, you should be ashamed.

Barn door

Jan 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I agree with Bob Graham 100%

A note to the flight attendants:  I am a member of YEU/PSCA (not by choice)  Last year they harvested over $1,300 out of my wallet in exchange for sweet f-all.
Think about that.  Pretty much a whole pay cheque every year to the union and they will mail you a newsletter talking about all the awesome hive-mind training they undertake down at the union hall for those in the inner circle.  Be careful what you wish for because they don’t engage the existing membership of thousands en masse so what do you think they will do for the dozen or two of you?

Friend of the flight attendants

Jan 16, 2013 at 8:45 pm

To Sound of the wrong buzzer,

You have it so wrong!  If they were treated with an ounce of respect from management this wouldn’t be an issue.


Jan 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Another successful business bullied by greedy unions.

Fly on

Jan 16, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Re: Sound of Wrong Buzzer

I am going out on a limb here… I am Guessing your reference to the internal workings of the company…and your emotional outburst suggests you work for the Company?

Referring to the employees “backbone” of the company as uneducated, kids, with no transferable skills… Maybe, just maybe maybe indicating why a Union might be appropriate.

Or I could be wrong.

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