Ottawa unveils Air Canada back-to-work bill

Mon Mar 12, 2012 6:09pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer and Nicole Mordant

OTTAWA/VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The Canadian government brought in legislation on Monday to block a strike or lockout at Air Canada in its latest move in a week to avert a work stoppage at Canada's biggest airline.

The back-to-work bill would take two to three days to pass, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt told CTV television, a speedy passage after the government limited debate on the legislation. That will ensure it is in place before Parliament breaks for a week's vacation next week.

Last week the government prevented a simultaneous strike and lockout at Air Canada by asking the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) to rule whether the industrial action would put public health and safety at risk.

Both the strike and the lockout would have started on Monday, but were delayed at least temporarily while the CIRB reviewed the issue.

Ottawa's decision to also push ahead with back-to-work legislation this week means the airline will keep flying regardless of what the CIRB decides.

Raitt, who brought in legislation twice last year to halt strikes at Air Canada and at Canada Post, said Canada's economic recovery would be harmed by a work stoppage at the airline.

She said the government had a duty to protect the interests of Canadians, at least a million of whom will travel on the airline this week during the March school break, and to look out for employees at businesses hit by an Air Canada shutdown.

"We cannot afford this work stoppage ... The risks are too great," Raitt said in the House of Commons.   Continued...

Canada's Labour Minister Lisa Raitt (2nd R) speaks to journalists at the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 12, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie