Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Air Canada Flight Attendants Issue Strike Notice

Air Canada’s flight attendants have rejected the tentative deal that was reached between them and the airline. They have issued a strike notice and are poised to go on a strike at 12:01 a.m. Thursday if no new labour pact is reached till then.

Air Canada’s component of Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 6,800 Air Canada flight attendants, issued the strike notice on Sunday evening. The decision to issue a strike notice was taken after 65% of the union members voted against the new labour agreement of last month.

The airline’s tentative agreement with flight attendants featured wage raise of 2% in the first three years, and 3% in the third. It also included steps to move new hires into a hybrid pension scheme. Some other modifications were proposed in the agreement. But it seems that all these gains were not good enough for the flight attendants who said that these improvements fell short of what they expect after years of concessions at the airline.

“We are perplexed and disappointed that two tentative agreements negotiated in good faith with and unanimously recommended by the democratically elected representatives of our flight attendants have failed to be ratified,” Duncan Dee, Air Canada Chief Operating Officer, was quoted by different news websites. “Air Canada remains hopeful that a disruption can be avoided,” he added.

Air Canada is one of the busiest airlines in the world. Millions of travellers meticulously plan their travel and book months in advance, cheap tickets on flights of this popular airline every year. Now it remains to be seen whether travellers who ‘struggled’ to get cheap flight tickets with Canada’s flag carrier will be subjected to anguish by the looming strike.

Air Canada says it will offer to rebook flights for ticket holders who are travelling in the coming days. The airline will implement a partial travel schedule in the event of a strike.

Troubled Times for Air Canada

As far as its labour relations are concerned, Air Canada seems to be going through a very bad patch. In June, a three-day strike was conducted by carrier’s sales and service agents. Last week the security screeners at Toronto's Pearson International Airport conducted work-to-rule protest that resulted in several flights getting delayed and affected the holiday weekend for many.

It is no doubt that a flight attendant strike is likely to create much more trouble for the airline. Federal regulations make it obligatory for every flight to feature a certain number of flight attendants.

Moreover, the airline’s pilots and its dispatchers too rejected a tentative agreement with the airline and new negotiations will now take place. The carrier’s machinists and ground crew union is also to negotiate a new labour pact this year.

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