March 14, 2011 / 10:11 PM / 7 years ago

Air Canada sales agent union asks for conciliator

* Says talks with airline making little progress

* Sales agent contract expired on Feb. 28

* One of five contracts expiring at Air Canada by April 1

VANCOUVER, March 14 (Reuters) - The union representing 3,800 customer service and sales agents at Air Canada ACa.TO ACb.TO said on Monday it has asked the federal government to appoint a conciliator as “little progress” has been made in month-long labor talks.

Talks between the Canadian Auto Workers union and Canada’s biggest airline have, however, “not broken down” and will continue, union spokesman Darryl Bink said.

The federal labor minister will appoint a conciliation officer, who will lead a conciliation process for up to 60 days, followed by 20 days of mediation, the CAW said in a statement.

Air Canada could not immediately be reached for comment.

The agents’ contract expired on Feb. 28, the first of five Air Canada labor agreements, including those of pilots, mechanics and flight attendants, that expire by April 1. The market is closely watching negotiations as any strikes could derail fragile recovery at the airline.

Industry analysts have said they expect that unions, emboldened by Air Canada’s stronger financial position, will push aggressively for better wages and benefits after they accepted status quo contracts 21 months ago to keep the carrier out of bankruptcy protection. (Reporting by Nicole Mordant; editing by Rob Wilson)

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