In a surprising move by an airline that prides itself on creating a friendly environment, Flair Airlines, the ultra-low-cost Canadian carrier that charges $15 to call its call centre has blackmailed staff against taking strike action.

In a long-running dispute over a uniformity of wages, pensions, as well as time credits and scheduling issues, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 139 Flair Air's flight attendants called for a strike action from Midnight on December 10th. "For the past several weeks, this employer has steadfastly refused to step away from its position of two-tier wages and benefits, which is fundamentally unfair," said CUPE National Representative Gary Yee.

Flair Air claimed it "historically paid its cabin crew 30% higher wages than competitors." which it couldn't afford to continue paying so "requested all new flight attendants start at the same wages as our competitors." a spokesperson for the airline told us, adding "Our aircrew is at the heart of our organisation."

However, whilst the airline may publicly say its aircrew is the heart of the organisation, it blackmailed staff in a series of memos threatening any staff member taking up their legal right to strike "would not be scheduled for further work." Flair Air also promised that any flight attendant crossing the picket line would get an additional $150/day as a strike-breaker bonus.

The CUPE crumbled, "As with any labour dispute after bargaining has broken down, our intent with the job action was to put pressure on the employer while it continued to operate the airline," said Yee. "But Flair's threats of possible illegal actions could jeopardise our members' job security, and we can't allow that to happen." the strike was called off. "The company's strategy of illegally tilting the balance of power in its favour has put CUPE members in a precarious position where they could be punished for exercising their rights under the law." Yee said the union is now challenging Flair Air at the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB).

A spokesperson for Flair Air insisted "Any claims of unfair labour practices are false, and we are confident the Canadian Industrial Relations Board will agree." We spoke to two Canadian employment specialists on the matter, who were in agreement that threatening the sack to anyone taking legally sanctioned industrial action is against Canadian employment laws.

Edmonton International Airport refused to support its hometown airline, its spokesperson Christopher Chodan telling us "This is a matter between Flair Airlines and CUPE."

Two other suppliers to Flair Airlines, who requested not to be named at this stage, said they were 'concerned' and 'worried' about the stance Flair Air was taking with unhappy staff members.

The airline spokesperson promised, "We will continue to negotiate with CUPE to reach an agreement that provides a high quality of life for our flight attendants while protecting the long-term sustainability of our operations. Our cabin crew are the heart of our organisation and we will continue to offer all employees competitive wages and a fulfilling career."

Flair Air is getting ready to start five new routes to the US in the coming weeks and the airlines' spokesperson is sure "we know our teams across Canada will ensure every Flair customer enjoys their travels with us." Yet how long staff goodwill will last as management think nothing of blackmailing staff into submission is anyone's guess.