It’s déjà vu, I knew the government would intervene. The Federal Labour Minister referred the disputes between the airline and its pilots’ and machinists’ unions to the Canada Industrial Relations Board. In 2011 a walkout by the airline’s customer service agents lasted just three days after the minister threatened back-to-work legislation.
“Our government’s concerned that the work stoppages are going to have an effect both on our national economy and of course on the Canadian travelling public. We all know that it’s March break, especially in Quebec, in Ontario and the following week after in British Columbia. And we know this can have an effect on Canadian families, especially since this is a really peak travel season.”, the minister Lisa Raitt said.
And the other side: “It is like negotiating with the monkey with the organ grinder standing behind you with the sword of Damocles over your head. Air Canada needs to behave like the private sector corporation that it is and stop running to the government every time it has a problem, which, as you can see, is often.”, Capt. Paul Strachan, president of the Air Canada Pilots Association, said about how the minister undermines the bargaining process when she intervenes.
However, it is interesting how things developed. The airline’s 8,600 machinists, electricians and baggage handlers had already served notice that they would go on strike on Sunday at midnight Eastern Time. Air Canada takes advantage so to speak and announces that it would lock out its 3,000 pilots at the same time after deadline passed Thursday at noon, for the what the airline had called its “best, last and final offer”, without a deal being reached with the pilots. Of course, you already have a strike so a lockout would not make any difference, but save some money on the wages (I suppose the wages are not paid for the period the employees are locked out).