Air Canada and the Canadian Auto Workers reached a tentative agreement Thursday, just hours after the federal government introduced back-to-work legislation.
The agreement ended a strike by 3,800 airport customer agents and call center workers that grounded Air Canada’s international services since 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. Those workers will return Friday morning, allowing international flights to resume.
Air Canada and the CAW reached agreement by postponing decisions on the most fundamental dispute issue of the negotiations: the airline’s insistence on future employees taking lower wages, fewer holidays and, above all, a lesser pension plan than existing employees have. That plan remains “completely intact,” Lewenza said in a press conference.
The dispute over introducing a “defined contributions” pension plan for new employees will go to mediation, and when and if that fails, to arbitration, Lewenza said.
The four-year agreement would replace the previous deal that expired in February. Without giving details, Lewanza said the agreement provides for an increase in wages and “significant workplace changes — quality-of-life issues.”
The CAW called the strike at midnight Monday, defining pensions as the essential issue in dispute.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Parliament the stoppage was “threatening … serious damage to a wide swath of the Canadian public” and the economy.
The government also is working on back-to-work legislation in the other major national shutdown: the Canadian postal services lockout of of 50,000 employees instituted by the federal agency Canada Post. Federal Labor Minister Lisa Raitt said that legislation should be introduced next week.
The lockout, instituted after 12 days of rotating one-day strikes across the country, has interrupted delivery of letters, mail, parcels and cargo. Raitt on Wednesday gave 48 hours’ notice of introducing back-to-work legislation in the House of Commons, meaning the earliest it can be dealt with is next Monday.
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