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Flight attendants facing rise in passenger anger, often over mask-wearing: union – Global News

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Passenger disobedience, rudeness, and aggressive behaviour is on the rise and directly impacting the health and well-being of airline employees, according to unions representing flight attendants at the country’s major airlines.

“Our people go to work and they anticipate having altercations with our guests on board,” said Chris Rauenbusch, an active cabin crew employee with Calgary-based WestJet Airlines Ltd. and president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4070. “Some people have mental health conditions and need to take leaves due to these circumstances. It’s not what we signed up for as flight attendants, but it’s unfortunately become our new reality.”

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“Every time you approach someone you have in your mind that this could be stage one of a seriously escalating situation,” said Troy Winters, senior officer for health and safety with CUPE National. The union represents more than 15,000 flight attendants at nine different Canadian airlines, including WestJet, Air Canada and Transat.

“It’s not as bad as it is in the States, there’s not as much serious violence, but we certainly do have folks who are overly belligerent.”

While reports of increasingly disruptive behaviour in recent months on American flights have prompted calls for U.S. lawmakers to crack down on the problem, data suggests the problem is escalating in Canada as well. Flight attendants say many of the problems stem from passengers who refuse to obey the federal requirement to wear a face mask on board.

According to Transport Canada, incidences of passenger non-compliance with the mask mandate spiked over the summer. Airlines reported 330 passengers to the regulator for refusing to wear a mask during July and August, more than twice the number of incidents reported in April and May.

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The rise can be partially attributed to increased passenger volumes as airlines reinstated routes and Canadians began to travel again over the summer. But Winters said he doesn’t believe that’s the only factor at play. As the pandemic drags on, tempers and anxieties are flaring, and Winters said it doesn’t help that different provincial governments have been sending different messages.

“You’ve got different jurisdictions like Alberta and Saskatchewan, in the summer they declared the pandemic’s over and you don’t need to wear masks anymore. So folks coming out of those regions are saying ‘I don’t need to do it,”’ he said.

“It’s an issue that’s not going away,” Rauenbusch said. “I do anticipate as we get into Thanksgiving and Christmas travel season, we’ll see a little more of what we’re seeing in the States.”

When airlines report an incident of non-compliance to Transport Canada, the regulator has a range of enforcement measures at its disposal, from letters of warning for first time offences to monetary penalties of up to $5,000. Since September of last year, Transport Canada has levied fines against 36 passengers for failing to wear a mask.


Click to play video: 'Vaccine passport policy causes argument at Perth, ON cafe'



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Vaccine passport policy causes argument at Perth, ON cafe


Vaccine passport policy causes argument at Perth, ON cafe

Criminal charges are also possible in the event that a passenger uses abusive language, issues verbal or physical threats towards employees or other passengers, or is otherwise deemed to be “unruly.” Though not all such cases are related to mask-wearing or other public health requirements, documented instances of “unruly” passengers on Canadian aircraft have been disproportionately high during the pandemic. There were 73 recorded cases in 2020, only a 25 per cent drop from the year before in spite of the fact that passenger volumes declined by more than 70 per cent.

Flight attendants say the official numbers actually downplay the seriousness of the situation. While Transport Canada asks airlines to report every instance of passengers refusing to wear a mask, Winters said in reality crew members only report the most severe cases.

“It’s definitely under-reported,” he said. “Everyone that you have to ask three times to put their mask back on isn’t getting written up, because then you’d be writing forms from the time you got off the flight until a couple days later.”

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WestJet said it has issued 118 travel bans against passengers for refusing to wear a mask since the airline introduced its “zero tolerance” policy in September of 2020.

“Since January 1, 2021, we have safely flown more than three million guests who are doing an excellent job adhering to the regulations to ensure the safety of all,” said WestJet spokeswoman Morgan Bell in an email. “The total cases of non-compliance represent less than 0.02 per cent of travellers.”

Neither Air Canada, Transat AT and Porter Airlines Inc. declined to provide company-specific statistics on mask-wearing or disruptive passenger behaviour.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Tesla stock surges as Hertz orders 100,000 electric cars – Aljazeera.com

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  1. Tesla stock surges as Hertz orders 100,000 electric cars  Aljazeera.com
  2. Hertz to buy 100,000 Teslas for its rental fleet by next year  CBC.ca
  3. Tesla soars on Hertz deal  CNBC Television
  4. The Hertz-Tesla Deal Will Help Normalize Electric Cars  Bloomberg
  5. Elon Musk Makes Tesla, Hertz and Bitcoin Memes Go Up  Bloomberg
  6. View Full coverage on Google News



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UBS logs surprise 9% rise in Q3 net profit

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UBS posted a 9% rise in third-quarter net profit on Tuesday, as continued trading helped the world’s largest wealth manager to its best quarterly profit since 2015.

Its third-quarter net profit of $2.279 billion far outpaced a median estimate of $1.596 billion from a poll of 23 analysts compiled by Switzerland’s largest bank.

“Our business momentum, our focus on fueling growth, on disciplined execution and on delivering our full ecosystem to clients – all of this led to another strong quarter across all of our business divisions and regions,” Chief Executive Ralph Hamers said in a statement.

In each of the last four quarters, UBS saw double-digit percent gains in net profit as buoyant markets helped it generate higher earnings off of managing money for the rich.

From July through September, favourable market conditions, and higher lending and trading amongst its wealthy clientele, unexpectedly helped raise earnings over the bumper levels reported in the third quarter of last year.

 

(Reporting by Oliver Hirt and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Michael Shields and Edwina Gibbs)

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Analysis: Capitol Hill drug pricing reform opponents among the biggest beneficiaries of pharma funds

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Democratic Party lawmakers holding up proposed drug pricing reforms are among the largest beneficiaries of the pharmaceutical industry’s push to stave off price cuts, a Reuters analysis of public lobbying and campaign data shows.

The industry, which traditionally gives more to Republicans, channeled around 60% of donated campaign funds to Democrats this year. It has spent over $177 million on lobbying and campaign donations in 2021.

Nonprofit political action committees (PACs) run by Pfizer Inc and Amgen Inc and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) were among the biggest donors, according to political spending data from OpenSecrets, formerly the Center for Responsive Politics.

Drugmakers are seeking to block laws that would give the U.S. government authority to negotiate prices for prescription medicines. Current U.S. law bars the government’s Medicare health insurance program from negotiating drug prices directly.

Many of the Democrats opposing an ambitious drug reduction bill proposed in the House of Representatives are among some of the biggest recipients of drug manufacturer lobbying funds.

They include Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Representative Scott Peters of California, OpenSecrets data covering industry donations through September of 2021 shows. In all, they have received around $1 million in pharmaceutical and health product industry donations this year.

A spokesperson for Sinema did not respond to a request for comment on the funds she has received but said the Senator supports making drugs as cheap as possible for patients.

Menendez and Peters said the donations did not influence their views. All three said they are opposed to The Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which is sponsored by Democrats in the House of Representatives and also known as H.R.3.

Menendez and Peters have advocated for alternative scaled-back drug pricing reforms that would still allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices but would lead to significantly smaller savings.

Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, who is also one of the top recipients of drugmaker donations, voted in favor of H.R.3.

Sinema, who campaigned in 2018 on cutting drug prices, told the White House she opposes allowing Medicare to negotiate them. She received about $466,000 from the industry in 2021, according to OpenSecrets data.

Peters was the top recipient of pharmaceutical industry funds in the House this year at nearly $99,550, according to OpenSecrets data. A spokesperson said Peters was not influenced by lobbying money and opposed the proposed law to protect pharmaceutical industry jobs and innovation.

Drugmakers say the Democrats’ proposed drug price overhaul would undermine their ability to develop new medicines, an argument they have used whenever price cuts are discussed by politicians regardless of political party.

“Patients face a future with less hope under Congress’ current drug pricing plan,” PhRMA Chief Executive Steve Ubl said in an August statement in reference to the proposed law. PhRMA declined to comment on donating to key Democratic opponents of the bill.

The United States is an outlier as most other developed nations do negotiate drug prices with manufacturers.

Amgen did not immediately respond to requests for comment on its donations and Pfizer declined to comment.

PROSPECTS FOR REFORM

President Joe Biden has vowed to cut medicine costs, in part by allowing the federal government to negotiate drug payments by Medicare, which covers Americans aged 65 and older.

But prospects for major drug pricing reforms have stalled in recent weeks amid opposition from centrist Democrats including Sinema and Peters. Negotiations are ongoing, eight Democratic staffers said.

The lawmakers’ resistance comes as 83% of Americans support allowing Medicare to negotiate medicine costs, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. The United States spends more than twice as much per person on drugs as other wealthy economies, about $1,500, for a total of around $350 billion in 2019.

“Members of Congress don’t always mirror the views of the public and the pharmaceutical industry is a powerful lobbying force,” said Larry Levitt, a health economist at Kaiser.

The healthcare industry is the second largest industry lobbying group in the United States behind the finance sector. It donated more than $600 million to politicians ahead of the 2020 elections.

The pharmaceutical industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars per year to sway federal and state policy. But current Democratic leadership has the industry concerned major reforms could actually be enacted and is working harder to offer alternatives such as reducing insurance co-pays, one industry source said. “It’s been sort of a mad scramble.”

Corporations in the United States are not permitted to make direct contributions to candidates but can give money through PACs. Most corporate PACs, including Pfizer’s and Amgen’s, are run by company managers and employees.

Democrats and some drug price experts say the Lower Drug Costs Now Act could save U.S. taxpayers and consumers billions annually with relatively minor impact on innovation.

A House Oversight and Reform Committee report showed that top drugmakers have spent around $50 billion more on share buybacks and dividends than research and development between 2016 and 2020.

Lovisa Gustafsson, a healthcare policy analyst at the Commonwealth Fund, a non-profit healthcare advocacy group, said, “There are other ways that we can incentivize innovation, aside from just paying huge margins for pharmaceutical companies.”

 

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein in Washington and Carl O’Donnell in New York; Editing by Caroline Humer and Bill Berkrot)

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