On Sunday, Air Canada’s flight attendants rejected the second tentative agreement with the airline. The flight attendants are poised to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday if no new labour pact is reached by then.

Dealing a huge blow to Air Canada, the airline’s flight attendants discarded a tentative deal reached between their union and the carrier. The flight attendants are all set to go on strike at 12:01 a.m. Thursday if no new labour pact is reached till then.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 6,800 Air Canada flight attendants, issued the strike notice on Sunday evening after 65% of its members voted against the new labour agreement formulated last month.

Even in September, the union served a 72 hour strike notice. However the federal government made it clear that it would not put up with any work disruption. At that time, Federal Labour Minister, Lisa Raitt said she was prepared to introduce a back-to-work bill in Parliament if the flight attendants did strike before the deal was met.

“We ask the federal government, in the strongest possible terms, to respect our right to collective bargaining and not to intervene unilaterally in this dispute,” said Jeff Taylor, the union’s president, in a memo.

The airline’s tentative agreement with CUPE included wage increase of 2% in the first three years, and 3% in the third. The agreement also featured measures to move new hires into a hybrid pension scheme, and some other work rule related modifications. But apparently all these changes were not good enough for the flight attendants who believed that these improvements fell short of the decade worth of concessions they have given at Air Canada.

Travellers’ Trouble

It surely is a bad news for passengers who strived hard to grab those elusive cheap flight ticketswith the airline months in advance. Air Canada is one of the world’s largest passenger airlines and millions of travellers look for cheap tickets on its flights every year.

Air Canada has although ensured that it will offer to rebook flights for ticket holding travellers who are flying in the coming days owing to the uncertainty. The airline will also put into operation a partial travel schedule in the event of a strike.

“We are perplexed and disappointed that two tentative agreements negotiated in good faith with and unanimously recommended by the democratically elected representatives of our flight attendants have failed to be ratified,” Duncan Dee, Air Canada Chief Operating Officer, was quoted by several news portals. “Air Canada remains hopeful that a disruption can be avoided,” he added.

Bad Times at Air Canada?

This will be the year’s second labour disruption at Air Canada, provided the flight attendants do indeed walk off the job on Thursday. A three-day strike that was conducted by carrier’s sales and service agents took place in June. However, a flight attendant strike is likely to be much more troublesome than the sales and service agent one as federal regulators necessitate a particular number of flight attendants for every flight.

This past Thursday, the security screeners at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport conducted work-to-rule protest that resulted in long queues and delaying of several flights on a holiday weekend at the country’s busiest and biggest airport.

Air Canada does seem to be in dire straits with the airline’s pilots and its dispatchers too rejecting a tentative agreement with the airline and are likely to be back at the bargaining table this fall. The carrier’s machinists and ground crew union is also to negotiate a new labour pact this year.

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