A union representing the support staff at Canada's largest airliner -- which includes 8,600 mechanics, cargo agents, baggage handlers and maintenance staff -- said it would strike against its patron starting Monday, after having rejected a government-mediated four-year contract deal for its members.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers told Air Canada, that nation's flagship carrier, that it would begin a labor action a minute after midnight on March 12, following a vote by 78 percent of the union to take that route. The strike would ground the airline, the union and independent experts have said.
We are the largest unionized workforce at Air Canada, without us, it's all grounded, a message on the union's Local 2323 Web site read.
Robert Kokonis, managing director of airline consulting firm AirTrav Inc. agreed with the sentiment in an interview with Reuters, noting if the machinists go out the airline does not fly. Period.
The work stoppage would come at a particularly inconvenient time for travelers. Next week is March Break in Canada, a time of the year many people travel on holiday.
Yet in spite of the impending shutdown such a development would bring, the airline was not seemingly sounding alarm bells, saying in a statement that while it acknowledged receiving notice of the strike action in the event a deal is not struck, it would still look for ways to deliver on promises to customers.
Should a settlement not be reached and the IAMAW commences job action, the airline will endeavour to minimize inconvenience to its customers, Duncan Dee, executive vice president and chief operating officer said in a statement posted on the Air Canada Web site.
Part of the reason underlying Air Canada's negotiating posture is the fact that country's government has consistently intervened to prevent workers from striking against the company.
Ticketing and customer service staff walked off the job for three days in June, and were then goaded back to the negotiation with threats the government would enact back-to-work legislation. In September, flight attendants were on the verge of a strike when the government forced the dispute on an industrial relations board.
Canadian Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has already stepped in to the latest fray.
Government is concerned that a strike at Air Canada would have a significantly negative impact on families and our national economy, she said in a statement.
In a speech last week, she hinted that the current administration would intervene if a strike was called, saying she would do what is right and what is necessary for Canada.
Opposition MP Yvone Godin told the Toronto Sun government action was unwarranted.
The workers of Air Canada have the right to strike, Godin said.
If the government gets involved again, as they've done in the past, they're setting the message to big business they don't have to deal with their workers, we'll deal with it.
Air Canada is still negotiating with its pilot's union.