Sep 22, 2002
Air Canada sent a team of corporate sleuths to scour garbage bins in a Paris hotel after finding the catering service on Flight 333 lacking, well, a little fizz.
Acting on a recent tip from an employee that beer and pop had gone missing from a drinks cart, the investigators entered hotel rooms occupied by Air Canada''s pilots and flight attendants, shortly after the crew checked out. The investigators searched the rooms and photographed the contents of the rubbish bins.
The airline took the action on the suspicion that an employee was stealing drinks and reselling them to a London shop, according to a source. Suspicions were aroused when drinks with labels in French as well as English were found in a British shop.
We''ve never seen them go into people''s rooms before . . . said Don Johnson, president of the Air Canada Pilots Association. Apparently, they''re taking it very seriously with the people who are involved.
Mr. Johnson said Air Canada usually confronts workers suspected of theft as they exit the aircraft. The pilots association said the search of hotel rooms is abusive.
There are no clear rules regarding an employer searching an employee''s private areas, such as lockers or hotel rooms, according to Michael Link, a professor specializing in labour law at the University of Western Ontario.
But when employers have good reason to suspect theft, they generally have some leeway to search private areas.
Fortunately or unfortunately, employees don''t have an absolute right to privacy. The kinds of rights you expect as a citizen don''t necessarily apply once you go in the office door.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents flight attendants, declined to comment on the case.
So did Air Canada. It''s an internal matter and we have no further comment on the case, spokeswoman Laura Cooke said.
But a company newsletter published in September warns workers that Air Canada was launching a program to protect the company from theft by employees.
Yves Duguay, Air Canada''s director of corporate security, says in the newsletter that Air Canada is in line with industry standards for employee theft, with as much as 9 per cent of the company''s office supplies and on-board products being taken each year by workers.
That works out to $9 per day for every employee in the company, Mr. Duguay said. And with about 38,000 workers, that amounts to $125-million a year pilfered by employees.
An employee decides to take a can of Coke, thinking, mistakenly, that it is a minor item that won''t be missed by a company the size of Air Canada, Mr. Duguay says in the newsletter.
If the can of Coke costs one dollar, not only did we lose the dollar, but if our profit margin is 10 per cent, then we must sell 10 more cans of Coke to offset the loss of one can.
If we have 1,000 cans of Coke taken each week, then we must sell 10,000 more to offset that loss.