Air Canada pilots' job action declared illegal
Published Friday, April 13, 2012 10:22PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 8:01AM EDT
Air Canada expects to resume its full flight schedule after the Canada Industrial Relations Board deemed that pilots calling in sick Friday were engaging in an illegal strike.
Thousands of Air Canada travellers scrambled to find alternate flights as the action by a small group of pilots caused dozens of cancelled flights at Canada's largest airports.
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said some 60 flights out of 660 mainline flights were affected by the action.
According to a statement issued by the air carrier, the Canada Industrial Relations Board on Friday, at Air Canada's request, granted an order declaring the pilots were participating in an illegal strike.
The order also called on the pilots to return to work and on the Air Canada Pilots Association to take all reasonable steps to bring an end the strike.
Fitzpatrick could not comment on whether the company would take disciplinary action against the pilots.
More than two dozen Air Canada flights out of Toronto's Pearson Airport were cancelled on Friday. A handful of flights out of Montreal's Trudeau International Airport had also been cancelled or delayed Friday morning.
To facilitate changes to travel plans, Air Canada revised its ticketing policy for customers booked on flights until Saturday.
The airline also said passengers wishing to rebook through June could do so free of charge through its website, mobile devices, or by calling the Air Canada toll free number in Canada and the U.S. - 1-888-247-2262.
It was the third time in a month that the airliner has had to cancel flights because of labour unrest.
The airline also cancelled flights March 18 amid runway problems at Pearson airport and pilots called-in sick. A week later, ground workers and baggage handlers held a wildcat strike after three employees were suspended for heckling Labour Minister Lisa Raitt.
The federal government has intervened in several Air Canada labour disputes, recently banning the company and its pilots and mechanics unions from disrupting service over bitter contract talks.
Negotiations between Air Canada and the union representing its 3,000 pilots were sent to an arbitrator last month and the union's right to strike has been suspended until a new collective agreement is enacted.
The Air Canada Pilots Association and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have each launched a constitutional challenge against the federal back-to-work legislation
The ACPA alleges that the Protecting Air Service Act has stripped pilots of their right to strike and contravenes several sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In his letter to members on Friday, Belanger said he was frustrated by the airline's refusal to negotiate and by the federal government's decision to force workers into a collective agreement.
"We are not surprised by your strong responses to the corporation's recent correspondence. We are, like you, incredibly frustrated by management's refusal to negotiate with us and by the collusion with the federal government forcing us into a process that we are actively contesting," Belanger wrote.
With files from The Canadian Press