Canada To Outlaw Air Canada Strike

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The Canadian government says it will pass a law ending a strike by Air Canada ticket agents if the airline and its employees can't reach a contract settlement. The 4,500 members of the Canadian Autoworkers Union walked off the job at kiosks and call centers at midnight Tuesday and within 12 hours, the government had issued the ultimatum. "They've got a duty to Canadians to get a deal done, and when they can't get a deal done and it ends up having an impact either on Canadians in general or on the economy, then that's the role of the government and we've clearly stated our intention," Labour Minister Lisa Raitt told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. However, union leaders say the unprecedented speed with which the government intervened is massive interference in the bargaining process and smacks of "collusion."

The CAW has been threatening to strike for weeks and the main issue is one that is rippling through much of the aviation industry. Air Canada wants to change its employee pension plans to defined contribution plans. The airline says it can't afford the defined payment plans that are now in force. CAW President Ken Lewenza called the move by the government "clear interference with the right to free collective bargaining" and suggested it might delay rather than speed up a negotiated settlement. There have been some service disruptions and slowdowns at Canadian airports but the airline has maintained a full schedule and expects to continue to do so.