Minister blocks flight attendants from striking

The federal government is moving to prevent a strike Thursday by Air Canada flight attendants by sending the matter to the Canada Industrial Relations Board for review.

MONTREAL — The federal government is moving to prevent a strike Thursday by Air Canada flight attendants by sending the matter to the Canada Industrial Relations Board for review.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt told CTV News that a reference will be sent to the board Wednesday asking it to examine the difficulties in winning ratification of two tentative agreements reached by company and union negotiators.

“While the matter is before the CIRB, there cannot be a work stoppage,” Raitt said from Vancouver.

Raitt said the board should not only look at the potential work stoppage and notice of strike issued Sunday, which set the clock ticking towards a legal strike, but the overall way in which the ratification failed.

Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) issued a statement late Tuesday that said it had confirmed Raitt’s comments said the airline’s representatives would will appear before the CIRB as required.

The latest twist in Air Canada’s troubled contract negotiations comes after members of the union rejected the latest agreement, which was supported by leaders of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The tentative deal was reached Sept. 20 with the help of a federal mediator appointed by Raitt and the threat of back-to-work legislation that could have been quickly passed while the House of Commons was sitting.

The reference buys the government time to pass back-to-work legislation on Monday.

Members of Parliament could have been recalled to pass any back-to-work legislation. But House rules would have prevented any law from being passed until after the start of the threatened strike early Thursday.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, the union announced that its negotiators were prepared to resume talks and called on Air Canada to address more of the issues that have upset the airline’s 6,800 flight attendants over the past decade.

“While no formal talks have taken place yet, we are ready to return to the table and find a way to keep our members and the public flying with a fair collective agreement,” said Jeff Taylor, president of the Air Canada Component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. “Our members are clearly frustrated, and are demanding their sacrifices over the past 10 years be addressed,” Taylor added.