Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Air Canada Resurrects Indentured Servitude

Remember the notion of "indentured servitude"?  We haven't seen it used for a very long time.

But, that is the essence of what Air Canada has proposed as part of their training program for their "economy" airline rouge.

As part of an agreement, Rouge flight attendants are being asked to cover a portion of the training costs. They must commit to having $49 a month deducted from their gross wages for up to three years.
If they leave within 36 months of completing the training, they will required to pay back any remaining amount owed.
This smells a lot like an attempt on the part of Air Canada to create something that binds an employee to their job - indenture.

The fact it is being done through a payroll deduction program is even more offensive.  Instead of providing it as a loan which can be paid off at the employee's will, it exists as an obligation that is deducted from the employee's paycheque.  This creates a debtor relationship between the employee and their employer that is not appropriate.

On CBC this morning, I heard a business columnist arguing that this is Air Canada's attempt to make sure that employees have a commitment to their job and the associated training.  This sounds like the same kind of brain-damaged sophistry that justifies "open concept" office spaces by claiming that they promote collaboration.  The reality in both cases is far different - one is an excuse to be cheap, and the other is downloading the cost of employer-specific skills training to the employee while binding them to the job.

Whether this particular policy is strictly legal is not the point.  It is morally and ethically wrong in an era when we have long since left the bindings of servitude and slavery in the past.

I have suspected for quite some time that there is a corporate feudalism emerging, and Air Canada has executed another step in the process.  Unfortunately, Harper is unlikely to step in and do anything about this.

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