Air Canada and union reach tentative agreement

Pension decision sent to arbitration; workers return to work on Friday
||Last Updated: 06/16/2011

The union representing striking sales and customer service agents at Air Canada has reached a tentative agreement with the airline. The 4,000 striking check-in and call centre staff will be back to work on Friday morning.

The two parties have decided to send the future of the employees’ pension plan to arbitration, which has been the outstanding conflict in negotiations. Air Canada is offering to put new hires on a defined-contribution pension plan, which will not guarantee a specific payout upon retirement. The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) says that creating defined-contribution plans would be unfair.

The deal was reached just after the House of Commons introduced back-to-work legislation for the striking workers and debated a motion to speed up its passing.

"We're satisfied with our collective agreement," CAW President Ken Lewenza told reporters this afternoon. "We're satisfied that our members made progress for the next four years in wages and in other areas that were of priority interest to them."

Lewenza also said that the new deal includes a wage increase for employees and addresses quality of life concerns raised by CAW members.

Air Canada Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Duncan Dee indicated that the airline was pleased with the agreement, too.

“The agreement will help ensure the long-term sustainability of Air Canada while maintaining industry-leading compensation and benefits for our employees," he said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt gave 48-hour notice of a bill to force the workers back to work. She had encouraged both sides to reach an agreement before the bill was in place.

The agreement still needs to undergo a ratification vote by union members that will begin next week and could take up to two weeks to complete.

Air Canada is still in contract talks with three other unions, including its flight attendants, pilots, and maintenance workers.

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