Air Canada gets strike notice and issues lock-out warning

by Array

MONTREAL, Quebec: Despite the strike notice given for next week by one of its unions, Air Canada refuses to acknowledge the possibility of disruptions.

“It’s a bit premature to talk about contingencies,” says media spokesperson, Peter Fitzpatrick. “Notice of any changes will be posted at the website.”

Local 2323 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) informed the airline that its approximately 8,600 mechanics, baggage handlers and cargo agents intend to to begin labour action starting at 12:01 AM ET on Monday, March 12.

On its website the union stated, “We are the largest unionized workforce at Air Canada, without us, it’s all grounded.”

In a statement, Air Canada executive vice-president and chief operating officer Duncan Dee tried to downplay any possible effects of a strike.

“Should a settlement not be reached and the IAMAW commences job action, the airline will endeavour to minimize inconvenience to its customers. The lines of communication remain open and we are hopeful that there remains sufficient time to avoid a work disruption.”

Of course a work disruption is exactly what the airline seems to be planning, as it issued a notice to the Air Canada Pilots Association that it plans to lock-out its pilots.

The union and the airline had agreed to participate in a 180-day mediation process, which began last month, after being unable to come to an agreement during 18 months of unmediated talks.

An offer put forward by Air Canada during the current negotiation round expired at noon today and was not accepted by the union. Air Canada then took the action of issuing the lock-out notice, which is set to go into effect on Monday, March 12 at 12:01 AM ET—the same time as the IAMAW strike-call.

“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 Dee.

“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. It is a very fair offer.  We had hoped this offer would reasonably bring this protracted labour dispute to an end. However, as ACPA has not accepted our final offer by the proscribed deadline, we are left with no option but to exercise our rights under the Canada Labour Code, a decision which we have not taken lightly. During this notice period, the lines of communication remain open as far as Air Canada is concerned and we hope that the Master Executive Committee of the Association takes advantage of this time to accept the final offer.”