Air Canada flight attendants get strike mandate

AP News
Posted: Sep 13, 2011 5:59 PM
Air Canada flight attendants get strike mandate

Air Canada, the country's largest airline, could face its second work stoppage this year after flight attendants overwhelmingly endorsed a strike that could begin as early as Sept. 21.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees said Tuesday that after a 10-day vote, employees voted 98 percent to back a strike.

Unless a last-minute deal is reached, 6,800 flight attendants could walk off the job next week.

That would mark Air Canada's second labor disruption in three months. About 3,800 customer sales and service representatives represented by the Canadian Auto Workers union held a three-day strike in June.

Air Canada has declined to comment about its contingency plans, but reports have suggested it has trained managers as replacement workers.

Analysts believe a stoppage by thousands of in-flight workers would have an impact on operations and likely prompt the federal government to either block a strike or end one quickly. The union has urged the government not to intervene in a strike.

But Labor Minister Lisa Raitt introduced back-to-work legislation two days into the previous strike, saying the government wouldn't tolerate any disruption to the public or impact on the economy.

The two sides hammered out a deal before the legislation was passed, but sent the contentious issue of requiring new hires to join a defined contribution pension plan _ instead of the more expensive defined benefit system, or traditional company pension _ to an arbitrator.

Jeff Taylor, president of the local union that represents flight attendants, said the union has been negotiating with the Montreal-based airline for a week and a half after an earlier deal was rejected by flight attendants in a ratification vote. The key area of dispute are wages, pensions and crew rest, working conditions and work rules, Taylor said.

Air Canada its regional partners carry about 31 million passengers annually to more than 170 destinations on five continents.