AC union takes fight to Parliament Hill
By The Canadian Press
Oct. 21, 2011, Ottawa - The union representing Air Canada's flight attendants is taking the fight to preserve free collective bargaining to the Harper government's front door today.
By The Canadian Press
The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents the airline's 6,800 flight attendants, has invited other unions to join in a protest planned for the noon-hour at Parliament Hill.
The Ottawa demonstration follows a string of rallies that have already taken place across the country, including at the constituency offices of Prime Minister Harper and Labour Minister Lisa Raitt.
Observers say Parliament Hill provides an important visual backdrop as CUPE tries to mobilize opposition MPs and court public opinion.
But they doubt it will have any effect on changing the positions of the federal government or the country's largest airline.
Asked how Raitt felt about the rally, spokeswoman Ashley Kelahear said the government encourages Canadians "to express their opinions in a lawful and peaceful matter.''
The rally comes a day after Air Canada and CUPE agreed to binding arbitration to settle their contract dispute.
The two sides agreed on the process Thursday at a meeting involving representatives with the Canada Industrial Relations Board, said news releases from the airline and CUPE.
Hearings are to begin Oct. 28 and a binding arbitration award is to be made by Nov. 7. The labour board will appoint an arbitrator if the two sides can't decide on one.
Both parties also agreed to withdraw unfair labour practice complaints filed by Air Canada on Oct. 12 and by CUPE on Sept 19.
Paul Moist, CUPE's national president, said Ottawa's threat of back to work legislation and asking the labour board to take away the workers' right to strike have made it too difficult to reach an agreement through negotiation.
"In this context arbitration is the best option,'' Moist said in a statement.
Duncan Dee, Air Canada's Chief Operating Officer, expressed hope the two sides could finally move forward.
"Air Canada is pleased to have a process in place whereby we can avoid any disruption of service and eliminate uncertainty for our customers,'' Dee said in a statement.
The flight attendants rejected two tentative agreements that the union negotiated this year. They have complained loudly that the airline has forced them to swallow too many concessions over the
Wages, working conditions and pension changes are issues, along with Air Canada's plans to launch a discount carrier.
The flight attendants voted to strike but were barred from walking off the job after Raitt referred the case to the quasi-judicial labour board.