Air Canada avoids strike action as government steps in

CANADA-Flight attendants at Air Canada have called off a strike following a decision by the federal government to call in the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) to investigate the dispute.

Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) – the largest union in the country – were due to walk out today, but the strike was cancelled just hours before it was due to begin.

As many as 6,800 flight attendants are represented by the union.

Many are angry at plans to set up a discount airline and have rejected a labor contracts offered by the flag-carrier.

It was the second time in three weeks that the two sides had narrowly averted a strike.

The Canadian government asked the CIRB, an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal that administers and interprets parts of the Labor Code, to look into the dispute and perhaps force the two sides to settle.

“As a negotiated agreement is unlikely in the near future and the collective bargaining process has broken down, the minister of labour has asked the CIRB to consider either imposing an agreement upon the parties or sending Air Canada and CUPE to binding arbitration,” the office of Labour minister Lisa Raitt said.

The CIRB is expected to consider whether the airline is an essential service to the national economy as thus preventing members from taking strike action.