Canada to block airline strike

AP News
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Posted: Oct 11, 2011 6:48 PM
Canada to block airline strike

Canada's Conservative government moved Tuesday to prevent a strike Thursday by Air Canada flight attendants by sending the matter to the Canada Industrial Relations Board for review.

Labor Minister Lisa Raitt said that referring the matter to the labor board will prevent nearly 7,000 flight attendants at Canada's largest airline from going on strike Thursday.

"While the matter is before the CIRB, there cannot be a work stoppage," Raitt said.

Her comments come after members of the union rejected a second tentative agreement supported by union leaders.

The referral buys the government time as it looks to pass back-to-work legislation. Parliament resumes sitting next week.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, the union announced that its negotiators were prepared to resume talks and called on Air Canada to address more of the issues that have upset the airline's flight attendants over the past decade.

About 3,800 Air Canada customer sales and service representatives held a three-day strike in June, but Raitt introduced back-to-work legislation two days into it.

The flight attendants' union has been negotiating with the Montreal-based airline for months. Union leaders had predicted the revamped offer would be approved. They said they had managed to get about 80 percent of what the membership had demanded in the areas of wages, pensions, crew rest, working conditions and work rules.

Air Canada said it would operate a partial schedule with the help of company managers. The airline has said it would allow customers booked for travel over the next several days to change dates free of charge.

Air Canada its regional partners carry about 31 million passengers.

Air Canada's desire to start a low-cost carrier using lower paid new hires is just one of several issues that likely prompted a second rejection of a tentative deal. Workers fear this model will create a dangerous precedent that could be transferred to the mainline carrier.

Workers also felt increased pay during layovers and a nine percent overall wage increase over four years wasn't enough compensation for sacrifices made since the airline obtained creditor protection in 2003.