Air Canada back-to-work bill to pass House overnight

Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:36am EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A government bill to block a strike or lockout at Air Canada should pass the House of Commons by the early hours of Wednesday, said Ashley Kelahear, a spokeswoman for Labour Minister Lisa Raitt.

With the threat of a simultaneous strike and lockout at the country's largest airline, Raitt is pushing the back-to-work legislation through quickly to be sure to avoid a hit to the still-fragile economy and inconvenience to travelers.

The Air Canada bill is an extra insurance measure, since the Conservative government had already temporarily staved off a work stoppage by formally asking the Canada Industrial Relations Board to determine if the airline is an essential service.

The legislation will ensure that regardless of what the CIRB decides, there will not be a gap in service due to two current contract disputes at the airline.

Debate on the bill is expected to start after 8 p.m. EDT on Tuesday (0000 GMT Wednesday) and wrap up in a matter of hours. It will then have to pass the Senate before being signed into law. Swift passage in both houses is assured because of Conservative majorities.

Opposition politicians have slammed the government for interfering in labor relations and, though Air Canada is continuing to fly, the unions have set up pickets at some airports protesting the government move.

Air Canada, which flies to some 180 destinations, wants to launch a low cost-carrier, which it sees as key to sustainable profitability. The unions fear those plans will hurt their job security and wages.

(Writing by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson)

 
Canada's Labour Minister Lisa Raitt attends a news conference at the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 12, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie