Labour leaders are calling on Ottawa to provide immediate financial aid to an airline industry devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The heads of two pilots’ unions and Unifor have asked the federal government to offer carriers one per cent loans to the tune of $7 billion in total.

The labour groups are seeking a combination of loan guaranties as well as direct financial aid, but say they are not seeking grants.

Unifor president Jerry Dias pointed to the U.S., Germany, France and other countries that have offered billions in sector-specific support in contrast to Canada, which has instead rolled out financial aid such as wage subsidies available to many industries.

Travel restrictions and dried-up demand continue to take a toll on the airline and tourism industries, with more than 30,000 employees laid off or furloughed at Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd.

In its throne speech last week, the Liberal government pledged to “support regional routes,” but has provided no details.

The unions also called for funding to develop a quarantine and testing plan that would ramp up rapid viral tests for passengers as a step toward easing travel restrictions.

The Canadian Press

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