Ottawa set to step in to block Air Canada strike

Tue Oct 11, 2011 5:56pm EDT
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By Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) - The government will step in to make sure a strike at Air Canada will not start on Thursday morning as scheduled, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said on Tuesday.

Raitt told CTV news she would refer the dispute between Air Canada and its flight attendants' union to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board on Wednesday, a move that would suspend any strike action for an undefined period.

"What that does mean is that while the matter is before the CIRB there cannot be a work stoppage," Raitt said in a CTV interview.

She said she did not know how long it would take the CIRB, an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal responsible for administering and interpreting parts of the Labour Code, to discharge its ruling.

The government had been running out of time to prevent a strike by 6,800 flight attendants at Canada's biggest airline, with Parliament on a week-long break and a strike deadline of one minute past minute on Thursday approaching.

The Conservative government has twice drafted back-to-work legislation to halt other work stoppages at Air Canada earlier this year, although union and management agreed to tentative deals before either set of legislation passed.

One option in the latest dispute had been to bring Parliament back ahead of schedule, but parliamentary experts said it would almost certainly have taken until Saturday, or perhaps even Monday, for legislation to pass.

On Sunday, the flight attendants rejected a tentative labor contract reached between the airline and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), with the union then giving strike notice for Thursday.   Continued...