Air Canada agents reach tentative deal
By The Canadian Press
June 16, 2011, Ottawa - Air Canada and its striking workers reached a tentative contract deal Thursday shortly after the federal government introduced back-to-work legislation seeking to force the customer service agents back to their posts.
By The Canadian Press
Canadian Auto Workers union spokeswoman Shannon Devine says details of the deal will be announced at a news conference at 2 p.m. ET in Toronto.
The deal was reached after CAW president Ken Lewenza and the union's bargaining committee met with representatives of the airline all morning. The workers will still have to vote to ratify the deal.
The key stumbling block to getting an agreement was the issue of pensions.
Air Canada wants new hires to be included in a defined-contribution plan instead of the defined-benefit plan that current employees have, because that would potentially save the airline money.
Travellers have seen only minor delays but no major disruptions since 3,800 customer service agents and other staff walked off the job Tuesday.
Debate on the back-to-work bill began in the House of Commons on Thursday morning, with the bill being introduced at noon.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the federal government had little choice but to introduce legislation to order the striking employees back to work.
"They are threatening… serious damage on a wide swath of the Canadian public,'' Harper told the House. "This is not acceptable to the Canadian government or to the economy and we will act to make sure those who are not at the table have their interests protected.''
Government officials said back-to-work legislation to end work stoppages and a lockout at Canada Post is expected to be tabled at 3 p.m. ET on Monday. Canada Post has been under some form of rotating strike or lockout since June 3.
Opposition parties have pledged to fight the bills, but Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan said the government is prepared to sit beyond next week, when Parliament is due to rise, if necessary.
Liberal Leader Bob Rae likened the government's actions to a "sledgehammer'' approach to labour relations.
NDP Leader Jack Layton accused the government of picking sides in the dispute, in favour of management.