Ottawa confident Air Canada, pilots will reach deal

Thu Feb 16, 2012 12:09pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government is confident that Air Canada and its pilots' union will reach a contract agreement and avoid a work stoppage at the world's eighth largest airline, Labor Minister Lisa Raitt told Reuters on Thursday.

The two sides have agreed to Raitt's offer of a six-month mediation process in a bid to settle major differences.

"I'm actually confident that they're going to be able to conclude a deal," Raitt said in an interview. She said she believed the two mediators handling the case would call the parties together on Friday to start the process.

Air Canada flies to more than 150 destinations and a work stoppage would cause considerable problems for travelers.

The pilots, who have been without a contract for almost a year, are worried about pensions, pay and Air Canada's plan to set up a low-cost carrier. This week they voted overwhelmingly in favor of giving their union a strike mandate.

The Conservative government, which sometimes takes a combative attitude with unions, has little patience for possible work stoppages at Air Canada.

Last year it twice threatened to push through back-to-work legislation when it seemed as though flight attendants and call-center and check-in staff might go on strike.

Although both Air Canada management and the pilots' union could push for a work stoppage before the mediation period runs out, Raitt said she was confident the two sides were committed to collective bargaining.   Continued...

Canada's Labour Minister Lisa Raitt speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 15, 2012.       REUTERS/Chris Wattie