Bloomberg News

Air Canada Says It’s Ready to Keep Negotiating With Pilots

January 24, 2012

(Adds union official’s comments in fourth paragraph.)

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Air Canada, the nation’s largest airline, said it’s willing to keep talking with its pilots after their union accused the company of abandoning negotiations.

Air Canada “remains at the negotiating table awaiting a response” from the Air Canada Pilots Association to a “comprehensive” proposal made on Jan. 16, the Montreal-based carrier said today in a statement. The parties will continue to negotiate under the supervision of a federally appointed mediator, the company said.

Under federal law, Air Canada and its pilots now enter a 21-day “cooling-off” period, before either side can take any action that could “escalate” the situation, the union said. Paul Strachan, president of the association, said members are willing to keep bargaining in the meantime.

“The statutory clock now is ticking,” Strachan said today in a telephone interview from Toronto. “At the end of the 21 days, the parties will be in a strike or lockout position. If Air Canada is serious about achieving a negotiated agreement, why start this clock running? Our collective agreement is a very complex document.”

The company and the union, which represents about 3,000 members, began negotiations in October 2010. After rejecting a tentative agreement in May, the pilots are working under the terms of their last pact, which expired at the end of March. That contract froze the pilots’ pay at 2008 rates, the union said.

‘Ample Time’

Air Canada disputes the union’s version of events, saying the mediation period “provides ample time” to the parties to agree on a deal. The company failed to make a proposal within a 60-day conciliation process, the union said earlier today in a statement.

Strachan, who isn’t involved in the labor talks, said union negotiators told colleagues that Air Canada reintroduced “many controversial items” from the failed labor agreement, in addition to demanding “significant” concessions. He declined to be more specific.

Whatever happens during the mediation, a strike or a lockout couldn’t take place before the end of the cooling-off period. Pilots could only walk off the job after the union had held a vote and given 72 hours’ notice to the company.

Pilots would much prefer to agree on a deal, Strachan said.

“We haven’t engaged in industrial action, and we have no plans to do so whatsoever,” he said. “We are committed to bargaining this. We are not running around wildcat. We want to achieve a properly negotiated agreement.”

--Editors: Jeffrey Tannenbaum, John Lear

To contact the reporter for this story: Frederic Tomesco in Montreal at tomesco@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net


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