Can collective bargaining survive at Air Canada?

Apparent federal policy to use back-to-work legislation may have made strikes redundant
By Danielle Harder
|Canadian Labour Reporter|Last Updated: 10/03/2011

A fragile economy, the threat of another recession and a federal government ready to quickly invoke back-to-work legislation are all “profoundly changing” collective bargaining at Air Canada, according to some airline industry experts. And it could have a trickledown effect in other transportation industries.

“What we’re seeing is a modified form of collective bargaining,” says Ian Lee, a strategic management expert at Carleton University in Ottawa. “There’s no evidence the federal government will amend the framework legislation (for collective bargaining), but it’s creating a de facto list of industries that can’t go on strike. By taking that right away, it renders those unions with no ‘tool’ in their arsenal.”

And that’s not the worst of it for unions. He says with airlines having little control over most business costs — including fuel and landing fees — Air Canada is targeting the only thing it can: wages.