Air Canada 777-300. By Rob Finlayson

Canadian labor minister Lisa Raitt has intervened to prevent March 12 work stoppages at Air Canada (AC).

Using a tactic deployed last year to stop AC's flight attendants from striking (ATW Daily News, Oct. 14, 2011), Raitt referred disputes between the airline and both its mechanics and pilots to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB). As a result, AC can't lock out its 3,000 pilots represented by the Air Canada Pilots Assn. (ACPA) March 12, as it threatened March 8, and the airline's 8,600 mechanics and ground handlers can't strike March 12, as the International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) threatened March 6 (ATW Daily News, March 8).

Instead, all parties must wait while CIRB determines whether work stoppages at AC would affect "the health and safety of the public," a process of indefinite length.

AC and the unions are allowed to keep negotiating. "I encourage the parties to continue working together to resolve their individual disputes and restore confidence for the traveling public," Raitt said.

Responding to Raitt's move, AC said, "The strike deadline by the IAMAW and Air Canada's lockout notice to the ACPA … [have] no effect. There will therefore be no disruption of service."

AC had reached tentative agreements on new labor pacts with both IAMAW and ACPA leaders, but rank-and-file union members voted down the accords. AC and ACPA are involved in a six-month federal mediation process started last month, but the airline presented to the pilots what it characterized as a take-it-or-leave-it proposal March 8 and then issued a lockout notice.

"After committing to a federal mediation process that was to last up to 180 days, the corporation instead chose to table what it termed its 'final' offer only 23 days into the process, without any serious effort to bridge our differences by negotiating in good faith," ACPA said in a statement. "This offer … demands even more concessions from our pilots. It's ridiculous that the corporation continues to focus on squeezing a group of professionals whose compensation represents only about 4% of revenue."