Ottawa set to step in to halt Air Canada strike

Tue Jun 14, 2011 5:59pm EDT
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By Nicole Mordant and Allison Martell

VANCOUVER/TORONTO (Reuters) - The government said on Tuesday it is preparing legislation to order nearly 4,000 striking Air Canada Inc customer service and sales agents back to work.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the strike at the country's biggest airline is damaging the economy and that notice of a bill to end it will be given in the House of Commons on Tuesday night.

"Air Canada has a huge section of the market in Canada in terms of travel," Flaherty told reporters in Ottawa. "It affects tourists, of course, but it affects business, it affects the delivery of cargo in Canada and from Canada abroad. So this is a matter of significant economic consequence."

The legislation will not be debated in Parliament before Friday as it requires 48 hours notice before it can be introduced, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt told CBC television.

She said main goal was for Air Canada and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union to reach a contract deal on their own.

"When they can't get a deal done and it ends up having an impact on Canadians in general or on the economy, then that's the role of the government," Raitt said.

Although flight disruptions were minor on Tuesday, she said that over time delays would snowball into severe backups.

The CAW said it was angry about news of Ottawa's planned involvement, less than 24 hours after the strike began.   Continued...

<p>Striking Air Canada employees picket outside Pearson International Airport in Toronto, June 14, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>