Air Canada defends role in union disputes

Washington DC
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Air Canada has defended its efforts in seeking to resolve recent conflicts with its employees, and believes that it still has some employees on its side as it aims to get relations with its unions back on track.

The Star Alliance carrier's president and chief executive Calin Rovinescu says he believes a "large number of employees" are turned off by recent strikes by airline workers, which resulted in flights being delayed or cancelled.

"A lot of employees are scratching their heads, and saying this is not the type of behaviour we are behind," he says in an earnings call today.

Defending the benefits that the airline gives its employees and the challenges of working with a "heavily unionised" environment, Rovinescu says he believes airline employees will not be holding any strikes again, adding: "No one on the unions' side wants a lawsuit... our sense is that this is behind us."

Relations between the airline and its unions have been tumultuous following the rejection of tentative agreements by the carrier's pilots and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents the airline's mechanics, baggage handlers and cargo agents.

Canada's labour minister Lisa Raitt appointed arbitrators on 2 May to mediate between the airline and its pilots union and another union that represents the carrier's mechanics, baggage handlers and cargo agents.

The airline is now in a 10-day negotiation period with both unions. A government bill passed in March mandates the arbitrators to decide on a final offer by either the airline or the unions within 90 days after being appointed.

Asked to respond to its unions' call for a new airline management, Rovinescu says in today's call: "Then they ought to work in a co-operative where they can make the decisions."