Air Canada’s flight attendants gave their union, a chapter of CUPE, an overwhelming strike mandate by voting 98-percent in favour of a walkout. Union president Jeff Taylor said they are hoping to reach a negotiated settlement, but that they will strike if they have to.
Around 6,800 flight attendants want compensation for a decade of concessions they made to Air Canada on wages, pensions and working conditions when the airline was going through a major reorganisation to recover substantial losses suffered in the early 2000’s. The union will be in a legal position to strike at 1 a.m. on September 21st.
Federal government enacted back-to-work legislation last June when Air Canada’s sales and customer service agents walked out. Since Air Canada is the country’s largest air carrier another back-to-work legislation is likely. Air Canada and its partners carry about 31 million passengers annually.
It was reported Thursday
that the federal labour minister Lisa Raitt is pressuring the parties to come to an agreement. A strike will strand passengers and hurt the economy, she said. CBC News reported
that passengers across the country are worried.
A late September or October strike will not be as disruptive to international traffic as a strike in peak season, which will be over by September 15th. There’s an abundance of competition on international routes where other carriers can absorb the slack. A large number of Air Canada's Europe passengers are carried by its partner Lufthansa through Frankfurt. This is not the case, however, for domestic routes where Air Canada has a virtual monopoly over scheduled services. In any event, a strike should boost Calgary-based competitor Westjet's business.
Although the June 2011 walkout was the carrier’s first strike in 13 years, Air Canada has a history of friction between management and labour. Jim Cowan of Vancouver is a retired inflight director that is still involved with his union buddies at Air Canada. He said: "If this strike happens you may see me on their picket lines. Air Canada seems to think the folks that do the work should take cuts in order to enhance the million dollar packages that their Executives take home. Milton and Rovinescu (former and current presidents of Air Canada) have become rich at everyone else's expense."