Canadian Controllers Threaten Job Action

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Canadian air traffic controllers are threatening "job action," but that won't affect pilots and travelers immediately. It's illegal for controllers to walk off the job. About the only leverage they have in the current contract dispute with Nav Canada is to cease training new controllers, which would eventually lead to a shortage of qualified controllers. That seemingly minute arsenal didn't stop the union boss from talking tough. "Our members have waited 30 months and their patience has run out," blustered Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Autoworkers Union, which represents the controllers. The last contract expired in March of 2001 and those 30 months since have not been kind to the privately run air traffic services company. A mediator's report has recommended controllers get raises of 2.5 percent in each of the first two years of a four-year deal and 2.75 percent and 3 percent in years three and four. Any substantial labor cost increases are bound to be reflected in the fees Nav Canada charges everyone from air carriers to individual GA pilots for services. Those fees recently went up an average of about 7 percent. The company is reeling from the reduction in traffic related to 9/11, the war in Iraq and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Its financial troubles are compounded by the fact that its biggest customer, Air Canada, is now in bankruptcy protection and owes Nav Canada $43 million. Talks were held on Friday but there was no word over the weekend whether they were to resume this week.