No formal talks in Air Canada strike

TORONTO — Despite the looming threat of back-to-work legislation, Air Canada and the union representing thousands of its striking employees didn’t appear to move any closer Wednesday to resolving their contract dispute.

TORONTO — Despite the looming threat of back-to-work legislation, Air Canada and the union representing thousands of its striking employees didn’t appear to move any closer Wednesday to resolving their contract dispute.

There was some dialogue between the two sides but no formal, face-to-face talks are scheduled, said union spokesman Darryl Bink.

Travellers faced minor delays as striking workers staged protests at airports in Vancouver and Montreal on Wednesday, but no major disruptions have been reported since 3,800 customer service agents and other staff walked off the job Tuesday.

The federal government has warned it could table a back-to-work bill as early as Thursday, saying the economy is too fragile to withstand a prolonged strike.

Canadian Auto Workers union president Ken Lewenza said he would like to negotiate a settlement with Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) before the government forces employees back to work.

“For us we really want to get a deal,” said Lewenza. “There’s one thing about legislation. It doesn’t improve the workplace conditions or the morale. Our members will not be happy with being legislated back to work, they’ll be happy with a bargained settlement.”

But the issue of employee pensions remains a major stumbling block. The airline has proposed new hires would receive defined contribution pension plans instead of the defined benefit plans current employees have.

“Our members fought for a decent pension plan over the years,” the union said in a memo to members Wednesday. “We want to ensure a decent pension for the next generation of workers. Two standards of pensions — one poor pension for new hires and a decent pension for current employees breaks solidarity among union members.”

Defined benefit plans are designed to provide retirees with a predictable income, but they expose the airline to additional costs if the pension fund’s assets aren’t able to pay for the benefits.

With defined contribution plans, the airline’s contribution is limited to a set, negotiated amount and payouts to retirees depend on the performance of the underlying investments.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the company also wants to avoid back-to-work legislation and there has been “ongoing dialogue” between the parties at a Toronto hotel since the walkout began, focusing on possible resolutions to the pension issue.

Differences over wage proposals, while far apart, aren’t insurmountable, added Lewenza. Most of the other issues have already been worked out, he said.

Meanwhile, striking workers held protests at airports across the country on Wednesday. They staged information pickets targeting other airport employees at Toronto’s Pearson airport, holding up traffic into the employee parking garage for 45 minutes, said union spokeswoman Delia Gaskill. However travellers driving to the airport were not delayed by pickets, she said.

The strikers also received support from about 200 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers who stopped working for about 20 minutes Wednesday morning at Pearson airport to show solidarity with their fellow Air Canada employees.

“They’re not very happy with the labour minister in regards to what they’re going to attempt to do to the CAW in regards to legislation for a return to work,” said Boyd Richardson, spokesman for the machinists’ union.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta is on pace to administer more than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses per week, according to the provincial government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
One million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Alberta

Alberta hit a milestone in the fight against COVID-19 this week. As… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Interior work will start this year on Red Deer hospital project, says infrastructure minister

‘We are committed. This is a top priority,’ says Presad Panda

Even with recent restrictions due to rising COVID-19 variant case levels, about 95 per cent of businesses are open in Alberta, said Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Consistent pandemic policy has helped Alberta, premier says

Alberta fatality rate lower than Canadian average

Richie Laryea of Toronto FC, left, and Jean Meneses of Mexico's Leon battle for the ball during a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, in Leon, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Toronto FC hosts Club Leon in the second leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie holding a valuable away goal after a 1-1 draw last week in Mexico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mario Armas
Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Winnipeg Jets' Dylan DeMelo (2) skates the puck around Ottawa Senators' Thomas Chabot (72) as he holds off Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton (22) during first-period NHL action in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

New York Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Bichette hits 2nd homer in 9th, Blue Jays beat Yankees 5-4

Bichette hits 2nd homer in 9th, Blue Jays beat Yankees 5-4

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Luguentz Dort (5) goes to the basket as Utah Jazz forward Jarrell Brantley (5) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Salt Lake City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rick Bowmer
Undrafted Montreal native Dort continues to smash “glass ceilings” in NBA

Undrafted Montreal native Dort continues to smash “glass ceilings” in NBA

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks past banners for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, to mark 100 days before the start of the Summer Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eugene Hoshiko
Rings on the Horizon: Tokyo Summer Olympics hit 100 days out marker

Rings on the Horizon: Tokyo Summer Olympics hit 100 days out marker

Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh speaks during a news conference in Lethbridge, Alta., on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Rossiter
‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

Most Read