Air Canada, cabin crew union to avoid strike

Fri Oct 21, 2011 1:43am EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Air Canada and its flight attendants' union on Thursday agreed to avoid a strike and let an arbitrator resolve a bitter and drawn-out labor dispute.

Hearings will commence October 28 and a binding arbitration award will be issued on or before November 7, the two sides said in separate statements.

No strike or lockouts may occur during the process, a requirement of Canada's Labour Code.

The airline, Canada's largest carrier, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) that represents its 6,800 flight attendants, said that the two parties agreed that arbitration was the best way to resolve the contract dispute.

Last week the union came to the brink of a strike for the second time in three weeks after its members rejected a second new labor agreement with Air Canada.

The strike was averted when Canada's Minister of Labour took the unusual step of asking the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), a quasi-judicial tribunal that administers and interprets parts of Canada's Labour Code, to intervene.

The Conservative government has repeatedly said that the country's fragile economy cannot afford a strike at Air Canada, which flies passengers and cargo to more than 175 destinations on five continents.

Air Canada and CUPE will now meet to decide on a mutually agreeable arbitrator. If there is no agreement on an arbitrator, the CIRB will appoint one.

"Air Canada is pleased to have a process in place whereby we can avoid any disruption of service," said Chief Operating Officer Duncan Dee, in a statement.   Continued...

<p>An Air Canada plane gets ready for take off at the International airport in Calgary, September 20, 2011. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>