Air Canada wildcat strike over: Union

No fines will be issued to union or Toronto, Montreal workers
||Last Updated: 03/23/2012

Air Canada ground workers in Toronto and Montreal are returning to work after the workers staged wildcat strikes on March 23, the union representing the workers said. The work stoppage led to dozens of flight delays and cancellations.

An arbitrator has issued an injunction, requiring the workers to return to work immediately, Air Canada said.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) agreed to end the job action on the condition the striking workers and union would not receive any penalties or fines, IAMAW spokesman Bill Trobovich said. The union also ended the job action on the condition that the three employees suspended for allegedly heckling Labour Minister Lisa Raitt and the 37 Air Canada staff allegedly fired afterward were reinstated immediately.

An unspecified number of Air Canada flights were either delayed or canceled on March 23 after ground workers at airports in Toronto and Montreal staged wildcat strikes.

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

The Toronto Star reported the strike began after three ground workers were suspended by the airline for clapping derisively at Raitt as she came through 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 said it was 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.

— with files from Reuters

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