Air Canada mechanics, baggage handlers eye return to talks

Thu Feb 23, 2012 11:56am EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - The union representing Air Canada's 8,600 mechanics, baggage handlers and cargo agents said Thursday it has told the country's biggest airline it intends to return to the bargaining table after its members rejected a tentative contract agreement.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said on Wednesday that 65.6 percent of its members had voted against a tentative four-year contract deal the union had negotiated with Air Canada.

The proposed four-year contract provided wage increases, improved benefits and secured a defined benefit pension fund for workers. The agreement was reached with the help of a government-appointed conciliator, retired judge Louise Otis.

Otis will now file a report to the labor minister to determine next steps, Air Canada said Wednesday, adding that it is confident there is sufficient time for the parties to avoid a

strike or lockout.

"We've informed Air Canada that we intend to go back to the bargaining table," IAMAW President Chuck Atkinson told Reuters.

"The message from our membership, with the 78 percent strike vote, was quite clear that they're not happy with the proposal and so therefore they've given us a mandate to return to the table and get more."

The union said it is planning a rally at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Friday morning in front of Air Canada's hangars to protest the tentative offer.

(Reporting By Susan Taylor; Editing by Peter Galloway)

Air Canada aircrafts are seen at Toronto Pearson International Airport, September 20, 2011.    REUTERS/Mark Blinch