Air Canada union steps back from brink on strike
By Nicole Mordant
(Reuters) - Air Canada's flight attendants canceled their planned strike on Wednesday just hours before it was due to start after the federal government asked a labor board to step into the dispute.
Employees must stay on the job while the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) looks into the dispute between Air Canada, the country's largest airline, and the union that represents its 6,800 flight attendants. One issue is whether the airline is an essential service that must keep operating to ensure the health and safety of the population.
"When the minister makes a referral under that section (of the labor code) related to essential services, that actually suspends the right to a strike or a lockout," CIRB executive director Ginette Brazeau told Reuters.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) had been planning to strike at one minute past midnight after flight attendants, angry at the airline's work rules and plans to set up a discount branch, rejected a labor contract.
It was the second time in three weeks that the two sides had narrowly averted a strike.
The Canadian government asked the CIRB, an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal that administers and interprets parts of the Labor Code, to look into the dispute and perhaps force the two sides to settle.
"As a negotiated agreement is unlikely in the near future and the collective bargaining process has broken down, the Minister of Labor has asked the CIRB to consider either imposing an agreement upon the parties or sending Air Canada and CUPE to binding arbitration," the office of Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said in a statement.
CUPE said it was reviewing its next steps. Continued...