by Jared Heng
Air Canada has temporarily averted a strike when an impasse with CUPE, the union representing the airline’s 6,800 flight attendants, was referred to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB).
On Sunday, it announced that CUPE had rejected a tentative agreement reached following negotiations.
Subsequently, CUPE gave a strike notice where the strike was originally scheduled for 00:01 am ET (0401 GMT) this Thursday.
However, Air Canada confirmed in a website statement on Tuesday that Canada’s labour minister Lisa Raitt had referred the deadlock to the CIRB. It also said the minister confirmed that no strike or lockout action can take place while the CIRB was considering the matter, effectively cancelling the strike deadline.
Air Canada said it will appear before the CIRB as required, adding that no further details are currently available.
For now, the airline said its business would remain “as usual” and all flights would continue to operate as scheduled.
Raitt earlier said that if both parties were unable to arrive at a solution, the government was “prepared to act to protect Canada’s fragile economy”.
“All options are being considered, including proceeding with the legislation proposed in September, which remains on the House of Common’s notice paper,” she said.
To deal with the uncertainty of the situation, Air Canada said on Sunday it was offering a flexible rebooking policy to enable customers booked for travel over the next six days to change dates free of charge.
In the event of a strike, Air Canada said it “will implement a partial schedule” including Air Canada Express flights operated by its regional partner airlines.
Air Canada is Canada’s largest airline, and the flag carrier is the 15th-largest commercial airline in the world, serving 33 million customers annually.