Sunwing is bringing 1,800 furloughed employees back onto the payroll, thanks to federal wage subsidies.

Announced Tuesday, the airline said Ottawa’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program was instrumental in the decision.

“Throughout this pandemic we have continued to explore all options to support our employees and keep as many employed as possible,” said Sunwing Travel Group CEO Stephen Hunter in a statement. “Once these travel restrictions are lifted, we have every intention of resuming operations and recalling our employees as soon as it is feasible.”

The decision, the statement says, received unanimous support from Sunwing’s Canada-based unions representing pilots, flight attendants, dispatchers and maintenance.

Barret Armann, president of Unifor Local 7378, told the Sun he and his members were pleased with the decision.

“It took a lot of pushing from our union and CUPE Local 4055 (flight attendants) to get it done,” he said. “There seemed to be hesitation.”

Armann, who represents Sunwing’s 470 airline pilots, had urged the airline to match measures taken by other Canadian carriers, including applying for the federal wage subsidy.

He says he’s confident both the airline and his members will bounce back once the crisis ends.

“It shows the company is now committed to its employees,” Armann said, describing the outpouring of relief and gratitude coming from Local 7378’s members.

“Now that they’re rehired and no longer unemployed, it made them feel a lot better yesterday when they finally got that letter.”

Discussions to resume cancelled domestic routes and international air travel are currently underway at Transport Canada. They are likely to occur in a phased, gradual manner.

Armann said he expects operations to resume sometime during the summer, and definitely be back in business in time for the winter vacation season.
On Twitter: @bryanpassifiume

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