Wings Magazine

Air Canada Takes Hardball Stance

May 2, 2011, Montreal - Air Canada pilots are far from a strike vote even if they spurn the airline's hardball stance against renegotiating a collective agreement, the union's president said Monday.

May 2, 2011  By The Canadian Press

"We're a long way away from the end of the road,'' Capt. Paul Strachan said in an interview.

The Air Canada Pilots Association announced on Monday that a 10-day ratification vote of the collective agreement will begin May 9.

If members vote down the tentative deal it will force the airline back to the bargaining table, Strachan said from Barrie, Ont.

"There would be a (resumption of talks).''


Pilots have been without a contract since March 31.

It marks the second time in less than a month that the association representing 3,000 Air Canada pilots has scheduled such
a vote.

On April 15, it abruptly cancelled the process after pilots voiced concerns about certain terms including those related to the
carrier's desire to establish a low-cost carrier and pension changes for new hires.

The decision to call for a new vote was made after Strachan said the airline played hardball in the hope that the deal squeaks by in a vote.

Members of the executive council are divided on the merits of the tentative agreement, but decided to let members make the ultimate decision without offering a recommendation to members, he added.

"Our members are frustrated and exhausted by the seeming lack of recognition for the value in what they do.''

Strachan said many members are fed up with hearing reasons why their compensation and pensions should be reduced by those who have stripped the airline of almost $4 billion in assets over the last decade.

While the final decision is ultimately in the hands of members, one union source who didn't want to be named said he'd be surprised if they ultimately approved the contract as presented.

The association has also decided to file a grievance against Air Canada's (TSX:AC.B) return on Sunday to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

Under the tentative agreement, Sky Regional Airlines Inc. is allowed to operate the Montreal to Toronto route using non-union pilots.

Meanwhile, the union has named Capt. Jon Webster as interim chairman of the master executive council after member overwhelmingly supported the recall of Capt. Bruce White.

While the pilots are far from a strike vote, the union representing Air Canada airport and customer service workers will
make such a call between May 13 to 19.

The Canadian Auto Workers Local 2002 said it also plans to conduct further rallies across the country to press its case for "a
fair deal.''

"This is about corporate greed,'' local union president Jamie Ross said in an update to members. "In the past, we've been
patient; we've been polite, now it's time to get political.''

Air Canada reports its first-quarter results and holds its annual shareholders' meeting on Thursday. It is expected to lose 45 cents per share on $2.74 billion of revenues in the first quarter, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.


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