Air Canada confident of avoiding strike, says no lockout

Mon Feb 13, 2012 3:14pm EST
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(Reuters) - Air Canada said on Monday it is confident of avoiding a damaging labor disruption involving its 3,000 pilots, and talks will continue even as a possible strike deadline nears.

"It is business as usual, and customers can continue to make their travel plans and book in confidence," Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said in an email.

The Air Canada Pilots Association says they do not want a strike, although the pilots are voting on whether to give their bargaining committee a mandate to walk off the job.

Air Canada, the country's biggest airline, has faced several periods of disruption or near disruption over the past six months, including a three-day strike in June by customer service agents and a just-averted walk-out by flight attendants in October.

A pilots' strike or company lock-out could ground the airline as early as Friday, although the government could also pass back-to-work legislation to force pilots back to work.

Mah said talks with the airline's pilots were scheduled to continue beyond Tuesday's deadline, with the assistance of a federally appointed mediator.

A 21-day cooling off period in the talks ends at 12:01 a.m. EST (5:01 GMT) on Tuesday.

At that time, Air Canada will be in a legal position to file 72 hours notice of a lockout, meaning it can lock out the pilots if it wants to as early as 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

But Mah said the airline, which teetered on the edge of bankruptcy 2-1/2 years ago and has yet to return to profitability, had "no plans" to lock out pilots.   Continued...

<p>Air Canada aircraft are seen at Toronto Pearson International Airport, September 20, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>