Wildcat strikes disrupt Toronto, Montreal Air Canada flights

Canada may use police after ground workers walk off job
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 03/23/2012

(Reuters) — An unspecified number of Air Canada flights were either delayed or canceled on Friday after ground workers at airports in Toronto and Montreal staged wildcat strikes, the country's largest airline said on March 23.

UPDATE: Air Canada wildcat strike over: Union

In a brief statement on its website, Air Canada said an "illegal work action" by Air Canada's ground staff led to disruptions at both Toronto's Pearson International and Montreal's Trudeau International airports the morning of March 23.

The strike began in Toronto late on March 22 and spread to Montreal early the following day, according to local media reports.

A spokesman for the union representing the ground workers, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, could not be reached immediately for comment.

The Toronto Star reported the strike began after three ground workers were suspended by the airline for clapping derisively at federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt as she came through the Pearson airport on March 22.

Air Canada has been locked in a labour dispute with both its pilots and ground workers unions.

Earlier this month Raitt pushed through legislation that sent the two labour disputes to binding arbitration, preventing both a threatened strike by the airline's machinists, and lockout of pilots by the airline.

In addition, Raitt effectively blocked a strike or lockout by asking the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) to decide whether Air Canada is a service essential for Canadians' health and safety.

The Canadian government is prepared to use law enforcement agencies if necessary to deal with the wildcat strike, Raitt said.

"The government of Canada is opposed to this illegal strike action that is disrupting travel for Canadians. Law enforcement agencies have been contacted, and will be deployed if necessary," she said in a statement.

She added if the union's job action was later ruled by the CIRB to be an illegal strike, employees could face fines up to $1,000 a day, and the union up to $100,000 a day.

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