Raitt blocks March break work stoppages at Air Canada, cites ‘fragile economy’

by Alex Ballingall

For the second time in less than a year, federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has stepped into a labour conflict at Air Canada, preventing a work stoppage that would have seen thousands of ground workers go on strike and pilots get locked out. ”Given our fragile economy, we’ve said before, a work stoppage is unacceptable,” said Raitt, speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Thursday.

Raitt has referred the two labour disputes to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board, asking whether the work done at a national airline can be deemed an essential service, thus preventing such disruptions in the future. The Conservative government’s propensity to wade into labour disputes, as it has done at the Port of Montreal, Marine Atlantic and Air Canada last October, may be bringing opposing parties back to bargaining table in this case. The CBC reported Thursday that negotiations for the Air Canada Pilots Association and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers resumed meetings with the airline’s management on Thursday.

Still, by preventing workers at the airline to strike, the government could be eroding in the unions’ ability to hold out on key demands for the employees they represent. Liberal leader Bob Rae has said the government’s approach to labour disruptions is a “farce,” while the NDP says the Conservatives are interfering with a union’s right to strike and negotiate with with employers on its own terms. As Capt. Paul Strachan, a spokesman for Air Canada’s pilots, said at a press conference: “Air Canada needs to behave like the private sector corporation that it is and stop running to the government every time it has a problem.”




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Raitt blocks March break work stoppages at Air Canada, cites ‘fragile economy’

  1. Let it go, Lisa. Let Air Canada compete with West Jet and the rest on even footing. Why are you giving them a leg up over the companies that work to keep their employees happy?

    • Oh Thwim come on, you are politically savy.  Do you know how many Canadians from central Canada will be put out of work if the government lets Air Canada go under?  The head office is in Montreal.  There is NO WAY that this company can go down.  It will be getting a “leg up” from every federal government whether through intervening in job action or by bailing the company out with taxpayer money.  Westjet is a lowly Calgary company.  It has to treat its customers and employees well because no one cares if it goes under.  The west has no political clout.

  2. Your a private company. Deal with it. Stop running home to mommy. But on the other hand. How much kick back does this company give to the politicans if they jump in and make these people work instead of striking?????   I’ll fly any other airline, than air canada. Blame the costs on fuel. Or you could run the airline like a real company. And stop asking for a free lunch. CEO and down the ranks need to take a 75% pay cut…….. Live like the little people do. If you can get rid of all the house keeps and butlers……

    • This is an all-too-typical pattern by the CPC. They did it to Canada Post workers too.

      It’s pretty clear the tories have no time for unions. But rather than all this back-door BS, it’s time for them to own up to their intentions and introduce legislation to outright ban unions.

      Show some courage, Lisa! Do the honourable thing and come clean on the issue so voters know without a doubt where this government stands and can judge them accordingly.

      • Keith, I don’t believe that either the postal workers or Air Canada workers had public support.  If they were hard working, gave excellent service and were underpaid compared to people in other fields, they might garner sympathy.  As it is, Air Canada workers are known for their terrible customer service.  That company likely would not survive a strike.  It would be Catapillar all over again….workers refuse to accept reality and they end up with no job at all.

        • Then so be it.

          If we have a right to unions, and they have a right to enter into negotiations and, yes, to strike, then they should be permitted to do so. If a company knows in advance the government will bail them out and force their workers back to work, they have no incentive to bargain in good faith. Conversely, the union leaders can make ridiculous demands to make it look like they are backing their workers, knowing any strike will be quickly terminated and they will come off looking like heroes to the rank and file as the ones who valiantly tried to stand up to “the man”.

          This government’s pattern of interference is predictable and actually harming the employer/union relationship. All the while playing up to the average non-paticipant as their saviour from the big bad unions.

          • I am not sure that forcing employers and unions to go to binding arbitration is “harming the employer/union relationship”. Rather, it forces both sides to remain at the bargaining table and accept realistic terms imposed by a nonbiased arbitrator.  Afterall, once a strike has been called, the employer/union relationship has already broken down and the will to bargain in good faith is lost.

          • If there is no real risk to begin with, neither side has much incentive to compromise. Negotiations drag out and the employer/employee relationship grows more strained as each side engages in gamesmanship. Strikes should be a last resort, but if parties know, in the back of their minds, that the government won’t tolerate a strike, it actually makes it easier to “take a stand”.

            Though for the postal workers it backfired, as Harper showed his anti-union stripe and legislated a settlement less than what Canada Post had offered. That was about as blatent a union-busting move as any Canadian government has attempted in my lifetime.

      • Its pretty clear, the unions have no time for customers.

  3. I am so fed up with Air Canada Board of Governors running to the Federal Government for hand-outs all the time….do you see WestJet do that???????  What is happening to all the roll-backs that the employees have had to endure to keep their airline afloat because they were told it was for the greater good…..fire all the ****** and get the members in to run the company…….they would do a whole sight better than what the CEO and Board of Air Canada……wake up and smell the coffee Air Canada CEO and Board…….time is not on your side and one day your employees will walk out and shut your airline down permanently……WestJet – gogogogogogogogo

  4. If I was a machinist for Air Canada, I’d be overjoyed that the gov’t has prevented a strike, with Air Canada so close to bankruptcy.  Try replacing those jobs in anything nearly as good.
    You have to be careful what you say to those union thugs but I’m sure that vast majority of  workers at Air Canada are privately delighted that the unions weren’t allowed to sink the airline as they have sunk so many other businesses.  If unions leaders are so concerned about Canadian workers, how come they never have anything to say about mass immigration which they know perfectly well is driving down wages and working conditions for Canadian workers in all job categories, by flooding the market with cheap labour.  Could it be that, like many politicians, they’re on the take from the immigration lobby?  Canadians should learn the facts about how Canadian workers are getting shafted at websites like immigrationwatchcanada.org, vdare.com or fairus.org.

  5. True, feds should let companies and employees negotiate. However, the unions pick bad times, like Easter break, to go on strike. The unions will not get much sympathy when they tie up airlines during stressful times of the year.

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