SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- The union representing employees who’ve recently received lay off notices at Air Canada’s Saint John call centre said jobs could return quickly if a federal airline relief package includes customer refunds for unused tickets.

“The refunds would cause additional work for our people to process all of those refunds,” said Tammy Moore of Local 2002, the airline division of Unifor.

Prior to the pandemic, there were about 400 employees at the Saint John call centre. Moore confirmed 83 employees were given a lay off notice on Friday, after another 15 employees were laid off last month.

Lay off notices at the call centre were also sent in June, according to the union, and 11 employees have not been brought back. In addition, Moore said several employees have either left on their own or retired.

“Nobody was hired to replace them, so we are down almost 200 people in that location,” said Moore.

Air Canada said the lay off notices were temporary.

"For the call centre to go from 400 to 200 people, we’re very concerned,” says Wayne Long, member of parliament for Saint John-Rothesay. “These are careers, these are great, well paying jobs, where people go in, work, move up, increase their hourly wage with time served.”

Long said the federal government is at the table trying to work out a deal with the airline industry.

“Other G7 countries have been quicker than we have to support their major airlines, but if you kind of dig through the details there, planes are literally flying around empty,” said Long. “Let’s finish this deal, and let’s make sure we can have a package that’s sustainable for Air Canada into the future. It’s very important we do this immediately.”

Air Canada did not agree to CTV’s request for an interview Wednesday. The company said Saint John lay offs are a part of the 1,500 national job cuts announced earlier this month.