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Why Are Air Canada Workers So Angry?

Toronto, ON – “In my forty years of collective bargaining I have never seen the level of anger that I have seen in the membership at Air Canada,” said IAMAW Canadian General Vice President Dave Ritchie.
“Clearly the recent tentative agreement with Air Canada did not address the concerns of our membership as it was rejected by a 66 per cent margin.” During the restructuring of Air Canada, our membership agreed to cost savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars to save the airline.
At the same time, the company sold assets in excess of $2 billion. Yet at no time were they prepared to address the pension deficit with these profits, but allowed the executives to walk away with millions of dollars in compensation while our membership continued to suffer.
This is the first time in over a decade that the IAMAW workers at Air Canada have been able to bargain for a new collective agreement. A tentative agreement was reached with the assistance of a government appointed conciliation commissioner. Our negotiations committee did the best they could under the circumstances to bring a tentative agreement for the membership to vote on. We clearly underestimated their anger and the agreement was rejected outright.
On Monday March 5, the IAMAW bargaining committee with its top leadership of Canadian General Vice President Dave Ritchie and District 140 President and General Chairperson Chuck Atkinson met with Air Canada to resume negotiations. The committee made every attempt to address the concerns raised by the membership at the ratification meetings. “It became clear by late Tuesday afternoon that Air Canada was not prepared to make the necessary adjustments to reach an agreement that our members would accept,” explained Ritchie.
“Under the Canada Labour Code we are required to give the employer a minimum of 72 hours notice prior to taking strike action. We have given Air Canada 144 hours notice and on Monday March 12, 2012 at 12:01 AM EST we will exercise our legal right to withdraw our labour,” said Ritchie. “We hope that Lisa Raitt, the Minister of Labour will allow us to negotiate an agreement that is acceptable to our membership. We have advised Air Canada that we are available at a moments notice to resume bargaining.”