Bloomberg News

Air Canada Flyers Face Airport Disruptions as Workers Strike

June 14, 2011

June 14 (Bloomberg) -- Air Canada said passengers may face disruptions today after a union representing 3,800 call-center, check-in and gate staff went on strike following the failure to agree on a new contract.

The nation’s biggest airline intends to operate a full timetable of flights and will deploy more than 1,700 managers to help ensure services, it said in a statement on the CNS Newswire. The Dorval, Quebec-based carrier advised passengers to check in online and to arrive at airports early.

Talks with the Canadian Auto Workers over a new contract and pension changes broke down after passing a midnight deadline set by the union. The carrier plunged the most in more than a year yesterday in Toronto trading ahead of the walkout.

“We are very disappointed that an agreement for a new contract has not been reached,” Chief Operating Officer Duncan Dee said in the statement. “We remain ready to resume discussions at any time to achieve a negotiated settlement.”

The airline and union have disagreed over the company’s proposal to switch from a defined-benefit pension, which guarantees a specific amount of benefits, to a defined- contribution plan for new hires.

“This strike is unfortunate -- not only for our members, but also for Air Canada passengers,” CAW President Ken Lewenza said in a statement.

The carrier dropped 8.2 percent to C$1.79 yesterday, the biggest decline since May 2010. It has fallen 38 percent since its last contract with the CAW expired Feb. 28. The airline controls 51 percent of the nation’s domestic market by capacity, according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, a Sydney- based market-research firm.

Air Canada’s more than 10,000 baggage handlers and mechanics, 6,800 flight attendants and 3,000 pilots also have been without a contract since March 31, according to Chris Hiscock, president of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers’ Canadian Airways Lodge 764. Members of the Air Canada Pilots Association voted last month to reject a tentative agreement with the airline.

--With assistance from Matt Walcoff in Toronto. Editors: Neil Denslow, Garry Smith

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy van Loon in Calgary at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scanlan at

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