Nav Canada warns air traffic controllers that job cuts are coming as pandemic crushes revenue


Air traffic controllers are being warned that layoffs are coming as Nav Canada pursues a “full restructuring” in response to a revenue slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, CBC News has learned.

CBC News has obtained a confidential memo sent internally to air traffic controllers on Thursday. In it, Ben Girard, Nav Canada’s vice-president and chief of operations, told staff that the company has seen a $518 million drop in revenue compared to its budget.

He said he’s been pushing the federal government for help, but — unlike some other countries — Canada has not released an industry-specific bailout package yet.

“We anticipate that until air traffic returns to higher levels, which will not occur until the end of this fiscal year, we will continue to operate in a daily cash negative position and this will be made worse as funding from the [Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy] program is ratcheted back,” Girard wrote. 

Girard did not say in the memo how many air traffic controllers will lose their jobs or which locations will be affected. The memo said it’s looking to reduce the number of “IFR controllers.” These controllers are higher on the pay scale and work at area control centres in Gander, N.L., Moncton, N.B., Montreal, Winnipeg, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.

The workers are responsible for controlling large amounts of airspace between airports using radar. Their job is to make sure planes keep proper distance from one another.

“I know this is very difficult news to hear. It is also very difficult news to deliver,” Girard wrote. “This is a decision that has been made at my level based on what needs to be done to ensure Nav Canada’s financial sustainability.”

Nav Canada manages millions of kilometres of airspace over Canada and used to provide air navigation services for more than three million flights a year. It’s funded through service fees paid by air carriers.

The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association said it is very concerned with the memo. 

“It is the opinion of this union that safety is not being taken into consideration in making sound decisions,” president Doug Best and executive vice-president Scott Loder wrote in a letter to members.

“Safety is the number one priority for Nav Canada and it has somehow taken a backseat to cost containment as the number one and only priority.”

‘We’re facing years of a downturn in air traffic’

In November, Canadian air traffic was down 54 per cent compared with the same time period in 2019, according to the memo.

“Over the summer and fall months, the outlook for the aviation industry has deteriorated significantly and it has become increasingly clear that we’re facing years of a downturn in air traffic that is much larger and broader in scope than we all initially believed, and will be much deeper and longer than any downturn in the history of the industry,” Girard wrote.

Nav Canada says it is conducting studies of air traffic control towers in Whitehorse, Regina, Fort McMurray in Alberta, Prince George in B.C., and Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor in Ontario that “will result in workforce adjustments.” The company is also looking into closing a control tower in St. Jean, Que.

Nav Canada air traffic controllers were told on Thursday that a workforce adjustment is coming because ‘the aviation industry has deteriorated significantly.’ (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Government ‘pressed’ for help 

The company has been focused on securing liquidity and tapped into the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to pay up to 75 per cent of employees’ wages, he wrote. Girard added that these payments are being reduced and will run through December, but Nav Canada isn’t sure if it can continue receiving that wage support.

“While an extension for the CEWS program through June 2021 was recently announced, NAV CANADA’s eligibility is uncertain,” he wrote.

Girard said the federal government has so far failed to come up with a bailout package for the airline sector, despite “significant lobbying.”

Last month, the Globe and Mail reported that the federal cabinet is working on a package for the airline sector that would include low-interest loans. 

Since Sept. 22, Girard wrote, the company has cut more than 700 managers and employees — 14 per cent of its workforce. It also let go of 159 students earlier in the pandemic, he added, and in November cut even more, “leaving just a few in the system.”

Along with the cuts, seven air traffic control towers are being considered for a downgraded level of service, and another 25 sites that are already Flight Service Stations — which provide only advisory services — could face more cuts.

Nav Canada’s board of directors has cut its fees by 20 per cent, and executives and managers have dropped their salaries by up to 10 per cent, Girard wrote.

These cost reductions, as well as access to government support through the wage subsidy program, have saved the company $200 million since March 1, he added. 

“However, that number still pales in comparison to the $518 million reduction in revenues as compared to budget,” Girard wrote.

“Despite these cost-containment efforts, we find ourselves in a situation where we expect our revenues to continue falling far short of our costs for several years, and we continue to require further cost-containment measures and indeed, a full restructuring of our business.

“In an environment where 30 per cent of costs are associated with ‘things’ and 70 per cent of costs are associated with ‘people,’ when all possible cuts with ‘things’ have been done, any further cuts will directly affect people.”

Girard added that he hopes the company can bring back some of the laid-off staff once the pandemic passes.

The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association said it will continue to challenge Nav Canada. The union hopes there will be “enough interest” in departure incentives for older controllers to offer them a package to retire. 

“The views of Nav Canada at this point are violating the vision, mission and overarching objectives of this company,” Best and Loder said in their letter to members.



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Did Nicole Kidman cause Byron’s traffic bedlam?



BYRON Shire Council staff have acknowledged Byron Bay’s traffic woes are at a scale not seen before in the town.

Roadworks on the Byron Bay Bypass at Shirley St, an influx of visitors – bolstered by school leavers – and road closures due to filming of Nicole Kidman’s new Nine Perfect Strangers miniseries have all accumulated to result in the current conditions, the council’s director of infrastructure services, Phil Holloway, said.

“What we’re unfortunately experiencing this week is a whole range of works and events occurring at the same time and causing a scale of traffic issues we have not seen before in Byron Bay,” Mr Holloway said.

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“At the Shirley St / Butler St roundabout area, council is doing critical asphalt sealing works as part of the Byron Bay Bypass which cannot be delayed due to expected rain this week.”

He said the bypass project was nearing completion so this project has been running on a critical timeline.

“The most restrictive works have been scheduled to start from 5am to avoid peak hour,” he said.

“Works have been adjusted where possible to reduce traffic wait times.

“These works are a significant cause of congestion but are only scheduled for this week.

“Normally this would be a reasonable inconvenience but it has become a significant issue due to Schoolies and people avoiding Bangalow Rd.

“The delays and congestion on Bangalow Road are caused by the filming of Nine Perfect Strangers.

“Some cars trying to access Byron via Bangalow Rd are now turning around and using Ewingsdale Rd which adds to the traffic volume there.

“Council has a limited ability to refuse filming as we are bound by the Local Government Filming Protocol to provide approvals to enable this industry to operate. All requests from the film industry for road closures must go through the Local Traffic Committee and be reported to Council.”

The Local Traffic Committee supported the road closures for Nine Perfect Strangers, which is understood to have a $100 million budget.

Mr Holloway said the council derives only nominal road closure fees from this.

“People are asking us how much money we got from our involvement in closing the roads for this film and the answer is that the same nominal fees apply to anyone requesting a road closure whether it’s to shoot a film or run a sporting event,” Mr Holloway said.

He said there are diversions along Coopers Shoot Rd.





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Sydney airport traffic plummets 94 pct in October on year due to COVID-19


SYDNEY, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) — Australia’s busiest airport, Sydney Airport, has seen a 94.3 percent drop in passenger usage in October year on year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airport said in a statement Friday.

In October, 225,000 passengers passed through the gates at Sydney airport, 38,000 of which were international travellers, 94.3 percent less than the same month last year.

Most of those travelling internationally were Australians arriving back in the country, the rest were made up primarily of citizens from China, New Zealand, India and the United States.

A lifting of domestic border restrictions saw a modest increase in the number of interstate travellers between the months of September and October with more states allowing arrivals from New South Wales (NSW).

“The downturn in passenger traffic is expected to persist until further government travel restrictions are eased,” the airport said in a statement on Friday.

With COVID-19 clusters under control in NSW and Victoria, further reopening of domestic borders are planned for before the end of the year, with the exception of Western Australia which has so far largely chosen to remain isolated.



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Work safety watchdog orders AFP to fix Canberra police traffic operations centre


ACT Policing failed to fix health and safety hazards at its Belconnen traffic operations centre for more than two years after the danger was identified.

The federal work safety watchdog confirmed it issued an improvement notice to the Federal Police last week because the building breached work health and safety laws.

Comcare has given ACT Policing until January 29, 2021 to fix the defects, or face fines of up to $250,000.

ACT Policing committed to fix the issues before the deadline, and said work was underway to relocate the traffic operations to a new site.

But the Australian Federal Police Association (AFPA) said the situation had been managed poorly, warning many other buildings occupied by ACT Policing were also defective and in need of repair.

“City Police Station leaks when it rains and is a dated building. The Winchester Police Centre is in a similar state, and everyone knows about the lack of a fit-for-purpose police station in Gungahlin,” AFPA president Alex Caruana said.

AFP warned of dozens of high-priority defects two years ago

A report on the traffic operations centre’s condition in mid-2018 identified 26 defects — with 22 of the defects rated as priority one issues requiring immediate action.

An improvement notice was issued to the Federal Police last week.(Supplied)

The defects included workplace accessibility, fire, lighting and other general building non-compliance.

The improvement notice said only one of the priority issues had been fixed in the more than two years since hazards were reported.

“At the time of writing this notice, the AFP has 21 priority one defects that still require action, with several not having interim controls identified,” the Comcare improvement notice said.

Comcare inspectors visited the traffic operations centre in September to collect information on building maintenance and incident and hazard reporting.

The inspectors reported that AFP staff at the centre were “visibly frustrated with the existing system”.

“Following a review of the available information and based on observations made during the inspection, I formed a reasonable belief that the AFP has not appropriately managed known risks to health and safety,” the notice reads.

“The current AFP facility management system does not appear to have enabled the AFP to effectively monitor facilities.”

ACT police training skirting.jpg
The Australian Federal Police Association has warned that more buildings occupied by ACT Policing need to be fixed.(Supplied)

The notice directed ACT Policing to complete six measures to fix the safety contraventions, including reviewing the existing facility management system and the installation of fire exit signage.

Comcare also recommended police ensure other ACT Policing buildings were compliant with safety laws.

Police union says situation has become ‘dire’

ACT Policing said the notice would not affect its officers’ ability to police the territory and protect the Canberra community.

“The Justice and Community Safety Directorate and ACT Policing will endeavour to complete the works within the specified timeframe,” a police spokesperson said.

“[The] ACT Government has also provided funding to ACT Policing to develop a 20-year Master Accommodation Plan which will ensure stations and facilities are fit-for-purpose. It will be delivered this financial year.”

An alternate site to house Traffic Operations has already been identified and a feasibility study is underway.

But the AFPA said more needed to be done to give officers better workplace accommodation.

An aircon system sits in a black ceiling hole.
The building was found to be in breach of work health and safety laws.

The union had previously warned a number of buildings — including the traffic operations centre — were in a state of disrepair, criticising the ACT Government for forcing police to make do with old buildings that were no longer fit for purpose.

“Through all our discussions with ACT Policing and the ACT Government, all the AFPA has heard about is the Police Services Model and Master Accommodation Plan,” Mr Caruana said.

“Why does it take three years to deliver … especially when ACT Policing has been provided funding?”



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North Shore, M1 traffic: Crashes, delays, updates


The daily commute is better with a little planning. Here’s some roads it might be best to avoid today

LATEST traffic alerts and road works for the North Shore region:

Traffic incidents since midnight: 0

Roadworks to avoid: 4

New roadworks this week: 0

Roadworks projects to be completed in the next 30 days:

0

Traffic incidents by suburb (most recently updated items are listed first):

There were no incidents reported this morning.

Roadworks by suburb (most recently updated items are listed first):

North Sydney

Scheduled roadwork (toll removal work)

Affected street: Cahill Expressway/Bradfield Highway (Sydney Harbour Bridge) near High Street

Alert created at 1.47am, November 8. Last updated at 10.53pm, November 16.

Ends: 4.30am, November 26

Advice: Reduced speed limit. Use diversions; Check signage. LanesSeven andEight will be closed, along with Mount St and High St southbound on-ramps. From 11pm Sun-Wed nights – and from 11:30pm Thu night – until 4am each night, laneSix will also be closed.

Cammeray

Scheduled roadwork

Affected street: Warringah Freeway near Miller Street

Alert created at 4.36pm, October 19. Last updated at 5.09am, November 13.

Ends: 11.30pm, November 18

Advice: Check signage. Exercise caution; Allow extra travel time.Two ofFour lanes southbound will be closed.

Normanhurst

Scheduled roadwork

Affected street: Pennant Hills Road near Nelson Street

Alert created at 10.26pm, November 9. Last updated at 10.26pm, November 9.

Ends: 5am, November 30

Advice: Reduced speed limit. Check signage; Exercise caution. Contra flow traffic conditions will be in place. Work is taking place on the following dates: – Tue 17 Nov – Thur 19 Nov – Mon 23 Nov – Sun 29 Nov.

Normanhurst

Scheduled roadwork

Affected street: Pennant Hills Road near Duffy Avenue

Alert created at 10.20pm, November 9. Last updated at 10.20pm, November 9.

Ends: 12am, December 1

Advice: Reduced speed limit. Check signage; Exercise caution. Contra flow traffic conditions will be in place. Work is taking place on the following dates: – Wed 18 Nov – Tue 24 Nov – Wed 25 Nov – Mon 30 Nov.

Today’s hyperlocal stories are available here.



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Three-kilometre tunnel to be built under Stonehenge to hide traffic


London: Britain has given the green light to a $3 billion tunnel under Stonehenge aimed at hiding a nearby main road that has long blighted the mysterious prehistoric circle of stones in southern England.

Stonehenge, one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments, includes a 5000-year-old ditch and a Neolithic stone circle with early Bronze Age burial mounds nearby. It is a World Heritage Site.

Traffic builds up on the main road near Stonehenge, which can be seen in the background.Credit:PA

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday granted development consent for the £1.7 billion ($3 billion) project, which includes a new dual carriageway with a 3.2-kilometre tunnel beside Stonehenge.

“The Secretary of State agrees the benefits of the development would include enabling visitors to Stonehenge to see the stone circle without the visual and aural distraction of road traffic,” Shapps said in a letter approving the project.



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Traffic affected on Bruxner Highway after three-car crash



UPDATE, 8.20am: IT HAS been confirmed that three vehicles were involved in a crash on the Bruxner Hwy near Duck Creek Mountain Rd at Alstonville today.

Live Traffic NSW reported that as well as emergency services crews, staff from Transport NSW are also at the scene.

Drivers are reminded to allow for additional travel time and to take area care on the roads. 

 

Original story: EMERGENCY services are en route to a crash on the Bruxner Hwy.

Richmond Police District Acting Inspector Anthony Smith said officers were on their way to the incident at Alstonville, near Duck Creek Mountain Rd.

It is understood the incident occurred shortly after 7am today.

Motorists have been advised to allow extra time and take additional precautions when travelling through this area.

It is understood the Rural Fire Service have sent a crew to the scene.

NSW Ambulance said their crew which was alerted to the incident had since been stood down as there were no injuries and no one needed transport.

More to come.





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Solution to Christmas Island traffic woes as 40 million of red crabs migrate to ocean for breeding


Every year the roads through Christmas Islands become a “living red carpet” as millions of red crabs emerge from the forest and make their way to the ocean to breed, and one business owner has designed “crab-safe” car attachments to allow his staff to drive during the migration period.

The traffic from the crabs is so dense it closes the island’s roads and has become a tourism drawcard.

Owner of one of the island’s accommodation providers, Chris Bray, said the sight was spectacular but it caused chaos for traffic.

Between 40 and 50 million red crabs live on Christmas Island and Mr Bray says the crabs know exactly where to go.

Red crabs live on Christmas Island and millions migrate to the ocean each year to breed.(Supplied: Chris Bray)

“They all have to congregate on the coast at the right particular phase of the moon and the right tide to be able to cast their eggs into the seas,” he said.

“It’s an incredibly well-synchronised event.”

Mr Bray said if it rained too close to the spawning date and there was not enough time to migrate, the crabs held off migrating until the next month.

Crabmobile ‘beats walking in rain’

Mr Bray installed ‘crab sweepers’ to his vehicle, which slowly bump the crustaceans out of the way, to help get through the mass movement of the red crabs each year.

A red road closure sign next to a modified 4WD on an empty road
Specially designed sweepers on each wheel of Mr Bray’s vehicle brush migrating crabs out of harm’s way.(Supplied: Chris Bray)

“Everyone was like, ‘How are you going to access the lodge when the crabs are migrating?’ So, I built a crab-safe vehicle attachment,” he said.

“You have to drive quite slowly, about the same speed as walking really.

“But it sure beats walking if it’s raining or if you’re lodge staff and you need to get supplies in and out.”

Along with red crab traffic, visitors must be wary of some other crabby neighbours.

“[If] anything that smells or has a smell on it, they’ll come along and drag it into the jungle somewhere.

“Guests will wake up and be like, ‘Where are my shoes gone?’. Sometimes you find them, sometimes you don’t.”



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Man arrested after ‘making it rain’ with banknotes… and causing traffic jam


A

man who showered commuters with banknotes from his 30th floor flat has been arrested in China, it is reported.

The 29-year-old was in a methamphetamine-induced “trance” at his home in the southwestern city of Chongqing when he began hurling a “heavenly rain” of cash from his window, police said.

Footage of the incident, which took place on October 17, has now been viewed more than half a million times online, according to the Guardian.

The video shows traffic chaos on the roads as dozens of people jump out of their cars and out onto the road to catch the flying bills.

However, their excitement was short lived and the man was taken into custody, the news site reported.

The man was detained for taking drugs and remained under investigation, police said in a statement.

Three years earlier, in the same city, a woman walked into traffic throwing banknotes in her wake.

She splashed around £1,800 (16,000) because she was in a bad mood, local media reported at the time.

In September last year, a man cast more than £11,500 (100,000 yuan) into the air after having a bad day at work in the southeastern city of Shishi.

The man’s actions caused a traffic jam and passers-by fell over each other to grab what they could, the South China Morning Post reported.

The 42-year-old later regretted the impulsive move and asked for his money back.



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