Crisis in the Airline Industry

The Need to Give the Airline Industry a Nation-Building Aim

October 20, 2020. Airline workers demonstrate on Parliament Hill demanding the federal government take action to "Save Canadian Aviation."

The necessity for a new direction and aim for the airline sector that begins
with nation-building to serve the people

The current crisis in the airline sector is the fifth one this century. The September 11, 2001 attacks on the twin towers and Pentagon in the U.S. and the SARS outbreak in 2003 disrupted the airline sector, especially Air Canada. Next came the general economic crisis of 2008-09 followed by the oil price collapse of 2014 and the continuing crisis in the oil sector that has hit Alberta and Saskatchewan hard.

The 2020 crisis is the most severe crisis to date. It underscores the necessity for a new direction and aim for the sector that breaks free from the recurring crises and iron grip of the global investment cartels and their mania for private maximum profit above all else. The airline sector is a key component of modern nation-building, in particular in Canada with its vast land mass, distinct economic regions from coast to coast to coast, that trade with each other and the world, and with many in the population having family links and other relations across Canada and abroad. The airline industry needs cooperation and a broad aim to serve the people, economy and society, not the present narrow competing private interests of the global rich to become richer.

Prior to the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis of 2020, more than 50,000 workers were directly employed with Canada's airlines as flight attendants, pilots, baggage handlers, and in customer service, maintenance, call centres and security. Today only a fraction of that number are employed and working. The major airports in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver prior to the crisis had thousands of workers each but today resemble ghost towns. Indirectly, the crisis has adversely affected thousands of additional workers in the tourism, hospitality and hotel sectors and the taxi industry.

October 30, 2020. Demonstration at Pearson Airport in Toronto.

The reasons for the crisis in the airline sector are both objective and subjective. The COVID-19 pandemic precipitated the immediate crisis but the manner in which the privately owned and controlled airlines have responded to the pandemic has made it worse. The response was conditioned by the narrow aim and panic of those in control not only of the airlines but politically and the underlying contradiction between the sector's socialized productive force and its private control by competing oligarchs.

The ruling elite in control view the working class as an enemy and object to exploit and not the determining human factor that can and should be mobilized to defeat the pandemic and solve economic and social problems. The reactionary response of the rich in control and ownership of the main economic sectors is conditioned by their outlook that the working class is a cost of production and an object to exploit and discard at will. Their megalomania is so intense, they believe that only by the rich becoming richer will the economy prosper and some of their excess wealth will trickle down to the masses through jobs and their philanthropic charity. Their narrow aim for private profit cannot see or grasp the necessity to put the airline sector on an emergency footing to keep workers active and producing for the sake of the socialized economy and common good. Instead, the private interests in control have scrambled to save their private fortunes and engaged in wrecking of the productive force and then begging for bailouts from the public purse.

The response of the ruling elite in the airline sector to the pandemic has been to lay off workers and reduce flights. They have refused to mobilize their workers to participate consciously in continuing to fly in a socially responsible and safe manner with more flights, less passengers and any additional physical precautions scientists and airline workers themselves deem necessary.

October 30, 2020. Montreal action by airline workers.

Instead, those in control conspired with their representatives in the federal government to pay some of their workers a percentage of their regular wages not to work and to stay in contact for use when needed while others were dismissed. This self-serving action of the rich has generated tremendous anxiety, insecurity and hardship among airline workers at a time their expertise and sense of social responsibility at work were sorely needed to keep the industry producing and serving the economy, people and society.

The rich in control of the sector in addition are demanding public bailouts such as low interest loans, government purchase of stock equity in their private companies, and other pay-the-rich schemes. These demands arise without having done anything to solve the problem of how to produce during the health emergency. In fact, the ruling elite deliberately collapsed the air industry as the numbers show. They demanded government pay some of their workers a stipend not to work and now in the face of their criminal wrecking actions want public funds to bail out their private interests so they can continue in the old way.

Why should such socially irresponsible self-serving actions of the rich be rewarded with public funds? The airline oligarchs have proved in practice they are useless at solving problems and detached from the present conditions and the necessity for a new direction. They are blinded by their greed and hatred of working people and society. They deserve nothing more than to be relieved of their positions of ownership and control and thrown into the dustbin of history.

The refusal to mobilize the working class throughout the country to collectively uphold social responsibility towards one another and society and deal with the pandemic using the available advanced science and means of production has led to a deepening economic crisis and resurgence of the pandemic.

In the modern era no economic, political or social problem can be solved without mobilizing the working class to tackle it by unleashing the human factor/social consciousness. This requires a new direction and aim for the economy that upholds the public good and nation-building to serve one another and society generally in a spirit of mutual benefit and cooperation.

The control, direction and aim of the global oligarchs to compete for maximum private profit to become richer through the expropriation of the value workers produce and their socially irresponsible exploitation of natural resources are outmoded and completely discredited and in contradiction with the socialized productive forces, causing recurring destructive crises and war.

Working people and their collectives must step up to take control of the situation for the good of the nation, people, economy and society. The time is now to build the New!

(Photos: ALPA Canada, CUPE, Unifor Local 2002.)

This article was published in

Volume 50 Number 44 - November 14, 2020

Article Link:
Crisis in the Airline Industry: The Need to Give the Airline Industry a Nation-Building Aim - K.C. Adams


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