Canada Senate to pass Air Canada bill in two days

Wed Mar 14, 2012 12:31pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's House of Commons passed a bill overnight to prevent a work stoppage at No. 1 airline Air Canada, and the Senate should pass it by the end of Thursday to enable it to become law, Labor Minister Lisa Raitt said on Wednesday.

The bill, which will send two separate labor disputes to binding arbitration, will prevent both a threatened strike by the airline's machinists, and lockout of pilots by the airline.

"With no prospect of resolution in sight, our government acted to ensure air services are not halted, which would in turn harm businesses and travelers alike," Raitt said in a statement.

She later told reporters that she expected the Senate would pass the bill within two days.

While the bill is still before Parliament, Raitt has effectively staved off a strike or lockout by asking the Canada Industrial Relations Board last Thursday to decide whether Air Canada is a service essential for Canadians' health and safety.

She said it was up to the board whether to continue to consider that question after the bill becomes law.

"I would hope that they'll still consider the issue and take a look at it because the health and safety question is still outstanding," she said.

The labor tribunal did start looking at the question last year during another dispute at Air Canada but stopped once the airline and the union came to an agreement.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer Editing by Peter Galloway)

 
Canada's Labour Minister Lisa Raitt listens to a question while speaking to journalists at the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 12, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie