Air Canada mechanics, baggage handlers reject labor deal

Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:29pm EST
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(Reuters) - Air Canada's 8,600 mechanics, baggage handlers and cargo agents have rejected a tentative contract agreement with the country's biggest airline, a union spokesman said on Wednesday, marking another setback for the carrier during a year of rocky labor relations.

Some 65.6 percent of the members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) who took part in the ballot voted against the agreement, union spokesman Bill Trbovich said.

At the same time, 78 percent voted in favor of giving union negotiators a mandate to strike, Trbovich said.

However, an airline sector analyst said he did not expect the union, which is Air Canada's largest, to call a strike.

"I don't think that's a very likely outcome ... I expect to see both sides return to the table," PI Financial analyst Chris Murray said, pointing out that union members had not overwhelmingly rejected the contract.

Trbovich said union negotiators were likely to meet to discuss their next move.

Air Canada issued a statement saying it was "business as usual" and that it was "confident that there is sufficient time for the parties to avoid a disruption."

Ashley Kelahear, spokeswoman to Canada's Labor Minister Lisa Raitt, said the minister was disappointed that the sides had not reached an agreement and was encouraging them to continue bargaining.

The union announced on February 10 that it had reached a tentative labor deal with Air Canada. The proposed four-year contract provided wage increases, improved benefits and secured a defined benefit pension fund for workers.   Continued...