Labour minister steps in to prevent strike

Federal Labour minister Lisa Raitt intervened, Thursday, to keep Air Canada flying during the busy March Break travel period.

The airline had been served strike notice by 8,600 ground crew, to take effect Monday, and the company was set to lock out its pilots starting Monday after making a final offer.

“We need to bring closure to the ongoing climate of labour uncertainty at Air Canada which is affecting our customers, destabilizing the Company and our operations, and damaging the Air Canada brand,” said Duncan Dee, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

“We have been in protracted talks over the past 18 months which have included various attempts at conciliation and mediation.  The offer on the table to ACPA is intended to preserve our pilots’ compensation and benefits in the top quartile of the North American industry.”

Both unions are trying to win back money lost after they made concessions to the airline during bankruptcy proceedings almost a decade ago.

“This offer continues the corporation’s pattern of behavior over the last decade and demands even more concessions from our pilots,” said Captain Paul Strachan, president of the Air Canada Pilots Association.

“It’s ridiculous that the corporation continues to focus on squeezing a group of professionals whose compensation represents only about four per cent of revenue. Having provided ongoing concessions amounting to several billion dollars over the last nine years, it’s high time that Air Canada recognized the value created by its experienced professional pilots.”

But as she has with similar disputes in the past, Raitt sent both sides to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board. That prevents any lock-out or strike.

Air Canada flight attendants were prevented from striking last year when Raitt used the same manoeuvre to study how a strike would affect the health and safety of Canadians.

An arbitrator later imposed a contract on flight attendants they had already rejected.

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