Saturday, October 22, 2011

Update: Air Canada, Flight Attendants Union Agree to Arbitration

On a positive note, Air Canada and its flight attendants' union on Thursday (October 20) agreed to avoid a strike and let an arbitrator resolve a prolonged labor dispute. Under Canadian labor law, no strike or lockouts may occur during the process. Hearings will commence October 28 and a binding arbitration award will be issued on or before November 7, the two sides said in separate statements. Air Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) that represents its 6,800 flight attendants, said that the two parties agreed that arbitration was the best way to resolve the contract dispute.

COMMENT: Last week the union came to the brink of a strike for the second time in three weeks after its members rejected a second new labor agreement with Air Canada. The strike was averted when Canada's Labor Minister, Lisa Raitt, took the unusual step of asking the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), a quasi-judicial tribunal that administers and interprets parts of Canada's Labor Code, to intervene.

The Conservative government has repeatedly said that the country's fragile economy cannot afford a strike at Air Canada, which flies passengers and cargo to more than 175 destinations on five continents.

Flight attendants, whose labor contract expired on March 31, 2011, are unhappy with Air Canada's plans to start up a low-cost carrier that would pay lower wages to cabin crews. They have also expressed dissatisfaction with working conditions, notably pay for layovers between flights.

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