Air Canada employees return as Canada Post shuts down
The Canadian Auto Workers' union (CAW) — and the 3,800 customer service, reservations and ticketing agents working for Air Canada that it represents — agreed on a tentative four-year contract with Air Canada on June 16. On the same day, Canada Post's CEO and COO shut down operations after a 12-day rotating strike by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
Workers had taken to the picket lines after the carrier and its employees failed to agree upon a new contract. The strike officially began at 11:59 p.m. Monday. According to Air Canada, no flights were affected by the work stoppage.
The new agreement covered wages, pensions and benefits for current employees, but an arbitrator will weigh the issue of a defined benefit plan for new hires, for which the union is fighting. Workers successfully reversed a proposed reduction in retirement savings that could have reduced pensions for current workers by up to 40 percent, the union said. Additional Air Canada propositions that were under debate include a reduction in benefits for workers and retirees, and an increase in the part-time workforce.
"We're extremely disappointed that 10 weeks of tough negotiations has not resulted in a new agreement that we can take back to our membership," CAW President Ken Lewenza said when the strike was announced. "This strike is unfortunate — not only for our members, but also for Air Canada passengers who may be inconvenienced."
In a video address to Air Canada customers, CEO Duncan Dee attempted to reassure clients that Air Canada operations were still running smoothly during the work stoppage.
"Despite the strike, Air Canada is operating its full schedule," Dee said. The carrier's resources were tasked, however, so Dee steered customers to Air Canada's website for frequently asked questions. He did say that he expected "long lines" at airport check-ins, and he advised against checking bags.
The Air Canada saga wasn't the only strike affecting the country. Employees represented by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers stopped work after their union and Canada Post were unable to negotiate a new contract after 8 months of talks.
After limiting postal service to three days a week, management went ahead and shut down operations completely on June 16 in order to force a deal. In a video release to employees, Chopra said that Canada Post was "bleeding more and more revenue each day." He added that these revenues go to labor costs, including pensions, and that Canada Post's goal in the negotiations is to protect the wages and benefits of employees.
"While the action may seem harsh, we did it intending to bring the issue to a head. The alternative may have been another two or three weeks of rotating strikes followed by a full strike," Chopra said. "Neither you, nor Canada Post, could afford that."