Canadian Labor Minister Lisa Raitt was set to meet representatives of Air Canada and its flight attendants' union on Monday afternoon to try to avert a strike at the country's largest airline.

The attendants can legally strike as early as Wednesday but there has been conjecture that the Conservative government would quickly legislate an end to a strike, as it did in June when Air Canada's call-center and check-in staff walked off the job.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan would not comment on Monday on the possibility of legislation. Our hope is, of course, that there will be a settlement among the parties, he told reporters. That is the best arrangement in these situations, and I know that Minister Raitt is working hard on achieving that kind of settlement.

Raitt was set to meet officials of the airline and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 6,800 flight attendants, at 4 p.m. (2000 GMT).

Air Canada has said it would operate on a partial schedule if there is a strike, using codeshare flights operated by partner airlines.

This past weekend an arbitrator ruled on a final issue left over from June's strike of call-center and check-in staff, coming down in favor of a compromise on pensions for new hires that was offered by the Canadian Auto Workers union, which represents the workers.

Under the ruling, new staff will earn a hybrid pension, with both defined-benefit and defined-contribution portions.

Air Canada's flight attendants have already voted down a tentative deal that would have similarly sent the issue of pensions for new hires to arbitration.

Air Canada was pushed to the brink of bankruptcy two years ago, and blamed heavy pension funding demands. Its pension deficit is now C$2.1 billion ($2.1 billion).