Air Canada union poised for strike

Air Canada’s biggest union says it is threatening to strike just as the busy March Break travel season gets under way because its members are angry over what they consider the airline’s refusal to deal with wage and pension issues.

TORONTO — Air Canada’s biggest union says it is threatening to strike just as the busy March Break travel season gets under way because its members are angry over what they consider the airline’s refusal to deal with wage and pension issues.

Union vice-president Dave Ritchie said the machinists, cargo agents and baggage handlers rejected a tentative deal late Tuesday because Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) hasn’t addressed their pension concerns, especially after they agreed to millions of dollars in cost cutting to help the airline restructure.

“In my 40 years of collective bargaining, I have never seen the level of anger that I have seen in the membership at Air Canada,” Ritchie said Wednesday at a news conference in Toronto just hours after the union served notice of its intention to strike.

Ritchie said the negotiating committee underestimated the anger of its membership, who rejected the tentative deal by a 66 per cent margin. Of particular concern are wages and a sizable pension deficit, which the union says Air Canada has not dealt with, despite the sale of $2 billion in assets.

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