Air Canada pilots back strike mandate as talks continue

Tue Feb 14, 2012 6:34pm EST
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By Nicole Mordant

TORONTO (Reuters) - Air Canada and its 3,000 pilots will continue labor negotiations with the help of a government-appointed mediator, even as the pilots voted overwhelmingly in favor of giving their negotiators the option to call a strike.

The Air Canada Pilots Association said on Tuesday that its members voted 97 percent to give their union representatives a strike mandate. More than 97 percent of the pilots at the nation's biggest airline took part in the vote.

"This vote demonstrates that Air Canada pilots are united in their desire to reach a freely negotiated agreement," said Paul Strachan, president of ACPA.

The union said in its statement that negotiations would continue with the assistance of a new federal mediator.

With the two sides still far apart, Canadian Labor Minister Lisa Raitt urged negotiators to keep working toward a contract agreement, offering them a new mediator on Tuesday for up to six more months of talks.

The offer from Raitt, who stepped in last year to stop two other labor disputes at the country's largest airline, came as a "cooling off" period in the contract dispute expired, though neither side signaled that it would break off talks.

Later in the day Raitt said that the two sides were "really far apart".

"I have spoken to both parties and they both have different perspectives on what the main issues are," she said in an interview with CTV.   Continued...

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