Nav Canada to close Winnipeg flight information centre amid hundreds of layoffs

The company in charge of Canadian air navigation is laying off hundreds of employees across the country, and closing its Winnipeg operations, as COVID-19 continues to throttle the airline industry.

Including newly announced layoffs, Nav Canada has eliminated more than 720 jobs — 14 per cent of its workforce — and plans to close its flight information centres in Winnipeg and Halifax, the company said in a news release this week.

“Undoubtedly, the company is in the midst of the toughest moment in its history,” said Neil Wilson, Nav Canada CEO.

Nav Canada is a private, non-profit company that operates air navigation across the country.

Air traffic services won’t be affected by the change, the company says. Pilots and dispatchers will get the information they need from other flight information centres.

Nav Canada is also looking at service levels at 24 different locations across the country, including four in Manitoba, in Brandon, Flin Flon, Churchill and The Pas.

The company cited the “new realities of air traffic levels” and the negative impact on the industry in its news release.

Earlier this month, officials at Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport said passenger traffic at the city’s main airport dropped from more than 10,000 people a day in 2019 to fewer than 900 a day this year.

“Nav Canada is not immune to the economic downturn and severe financial impacts the aviation industry is experiencing,” Wilson said in the release.

‘Aviation workers have stepped up’: MPs

Cuts at Nav Canada reach across all departments and include most of the current cohort of operational students, the company said in its release.

The reductions follow layoffs at the Winnipeg Airports Authority, which laid off one-quarter of its Winnipeg staff in June. The layoffs amounted to losing 35 positions, although only 28 were filled at the time, a spokesperson said in June.

Two Conservative Manitoba members of Parliament, along with Conservative transport critic Stephanie Kusie (Calgary Midnapore) issued a joint statement Thursday on the layoffs.

Kusie, along with Marty Morantz (Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley) and James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman), criticized the Liberal government for not addressing aviation industry challenges in Wednesday’s throne speech.

“When Canada had a shortage of [personal protective equipment] at the start of this pandemic, it was aviation workers who stepped up and worked to bring shipments of PPE to front-line workers,” the statement says.

“Aviation workers have stepped up when Canadians needed them. The Trudeau government must step up and deliver a plan to help these workers get back on their feet.”

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