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Air Canada chief pleased with labour pact

Sept. 23, 2011, Montreal - Air Canada president Calin Rovinescu said Thursday he is “pleased and satisfied that we got through” the negotiations with the carrier’s 6,800 flight attendants.


September 23, 2011
By The Montreal Gazette

But in comments to two reporters after a luncheon speech, he would not say whether management or the union got more of what they sought.

Union officials have hinted their demands were largely met. But neither side will comment on specifics before a ratification vote on the tentative deal is held in about two weeks.

Jeff Taylor, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees unit that represents the flight attendants, claimed that the union got 80 per cent of what it wanted.

Immediately after the provisional accord was reached in Montreal on Tuesday, Taylor told reporters that “we were called back to the table around 12:45 p.m. today and we dealt with the company on three outstanding issues – again, I can’t give details on the issues. The company realized it was beneficial to give in, to (make) those concessions, and here we are – smiling and happy.”

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Rovinescu said after a speech that again excoriated Canadian regulators and legislators he called meddlesome, that “putting a percentage on what the company got vs. what the union got – I don’t think that’s constructive. My view is that we’re going to make the best of what it is that we have.”

He called the talks “very, very long and tedious.”

But Rovinescu conceded that “obviously, from the perspective of the labour groups, they’re looking for improvements, which they ended up achieving.”

Air Canada’s 23,000 unionized employees have said that their generous wage and benefits concessions over the last decade have nursed the carrier back to health and profits and that they would seek to regain some of the lost ground.

He said that provisions in a deal reached with its Canadian Auto Workers members on a hybrid defined-contribution and defined-benefits pension scheme will not automatically be a template for other union agreements.

“It will still depend on negotiations with each group,” Rovinescu said.

Air Canada has yet to conclude definitive agreements with two major unions, the Air Canada Pilots Association and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. It has signed a tentative deal with its small dispatchers’ unit.

The bargaining committee for Pilots’ association, like that of CUPE, signed a tentative deal with the employer that was rejected out of hand by their own memberships. Pilots turfed out their lead negotiator and have yet to restart talks with management.

Rovinescu said that “our labour (negotiating) team will take a little bit of time before tackling the next round.”

Asked about the effects of the threat by Labour Minister Lisa Raitt to order the flight attendants back to work with special law, Rovinescu did not reply directly.

“The best way to get a labour deal is to get a labour deal negotiated by the parties,” he noted. “That’s our strongly held view.”

He said that Air Canada will keep pursuing the formation of a low-cost wing – but only if it’s truly low-cost on a sustainable basis.