A strike by pilots hit Air Canada last week, resulting in the delay and cancellation of several flights. However, the carrier said on Friday that it expected normal operations to resume after a labour board found the strike illegal.
The Canada Industrial Relations Board ordered that union which represents the pilots, Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA), take all reasonable action to bring the illegal strike to a halt. It also ordered that all the pilots who participated immediately return to work. The carrier had told the pilots’ union earlier in the week that several pilots were planning to play sick on April 13, despite being fit to fly.
Paul Strachan, the president of ACPA, said the union will comply with the decision handed down by the labour board. However, he warned that their members are disgusted with the situation. They all have to be very aware of the real risk that pilots will feel so beaten down and helpless that they will lash back. Not even this organisation will be able to control the outcome if this happens. He thinks most of the pilots are listening to the union leaders, but the frustration is growing among them that this is a hopeless situation. They feel like lambs being led to the slaughter.
About 75 flights were cancelled by Air Canada on Friday due to the illegal industrial action. According to its website, 36 of the 690 services due to leave its hub at Pearson International Airport in Toronto had to be cancelled. It warned that a knock-on effect was possible for flights from other airports. The airline said it will allow passengers to book alternate travel without penalty if their already booked flights have been disrupted.
This is the second time Air Canada has had to delay and cancel flights in just a few weeks due to reports of pilots calling in sick. Some of these delays, however, were caused by fog and a fire on the main Toronto airport runway. Additionally, the carrier’s ground crew staff held a wildcat strike that disrupted dozens of services last month.
The dispute between the two sides involves two of the airline’s main union – one of which represents about 3,000 pilots. Air Canada is planning to set up a discount carrier to help its bottom line during a tough period for the overall aviation industry. The unions are opposed to the plan in fear that benefits and job security would be at risk.
Last month, the Canadian government passed a law that sent the separate disputes with Air Canada and its pilots and machinists to binding arbitration. This has meant that the machinists are prevented from striking, while the airline can’t lock out its pilots. Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has encouraged both sides to resolve the disputes and restore confidence among passengers.
ACPA told its members last week that it’s their duty to advise them all that their right to strike and the airline’s right to lock them out have been suspended until a new collective deal takes effect. The union has filed a motion to quash the law, but until the legislation is struck down, they all have to comply with it. In a letter to the pilots, the director of flying operations at Air Canada said that the company wouldn’t tolerate pilots abusing the rules about if they are fit to fly. Despite the advice and warning, the illegal strike on Friday went ahead.
Author's Google+ page