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Air Canada settlement a harbinger of ill times?

JY Hodge

November 20, 2011

In a potentially damaging and certainly disappointing settlement, flight attendants at Air Canada have had their bargaining rights disregarded and a contract imposed upon them, after Canada Industrial Relations Board arbitrator Elizabeth MacPherson endorsed Air Canada’s position without alteration.

Flight attendants, organized under CUPE, have a new four-year deal that expires in March 2015.

The deal was exactly the same as the employer’s final offer, a deal recommended by the local’s bargaining committee but rejected by over 65 per cent of the membership.

“Awarding flight attendants an agreement they rejected a month ago does not in any way address serious workplace issues and flight attendants are rightfully disappointed and angry,” said CUPE National President Paul Moist.

“If Air Canada is truly interested in running a professional and efficient company they must invest in their work force. This agreement will leave flight attendants exhausted, frustrated and underpaid.”

The arbitration comes after federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt intervened directly in the bargaining process on the side of the employer by referring the dispute to the CIRB, thus effectivelysuspending workers’ right to strike.

She also served notice to workers by musing about rewriting Canada’s labour relations laws to render the economy an “essential service,” thus outlawing strikes in any enterprise she chooses.

Workers everywhere should be worried if such a practice becomes the law of the land.

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