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Should Air Canada employees be allowed to strike?

An Air Canada strike would mean a major disruption for travellers and businesses, especially during March Break. The federal government has intervened.

In the past, the government has shown a willingness to intervene or even legislate ...but is that fair?
Should Air Canada employees be allowed to strike?
With host Rex Murphy. 


Thanks to everyone who participated in our online chat experiment and for the feedback to help us it a even better experience for next time.

We are trying something new on March 11th. In addition to phoning in, you can share your thoughts on this week's Cross Country Checkup with Rex Murphy in this online conversation. We'll give away a copy of Rex's latest book, Canada and Other Matters of Opinion. Hope you can join us!

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Just as many Canadians were preparing to crowd into airports for March Break, it was the 'Air-Canada-strike-and-lockout' that wasn't. The labour dispute involving 12-thousand workers would have certainly thrown a wrench into many travellers plans for March Break not to mention the more costly disruption to businesses across the country. But the federal government stepped in to refer the matter to the Canada Industrial Relations Board for closer scrutiny. However, it's not over yet.

Air Canada was readying itself to lockout its pilots who have been negotiating their new contract for the last 18 months. In addition, Air Canada's machinists, electricians and baggage handlers served notice they would go on strike at midnight tonight.

Sending the disputes to the Industrial Relations Board only postpones the labour action ...so the government is also readying back to work legislation in case the Board dismisses the case and Air Canada grinds to a halt.

This isn't the first time the government has responded to a labour dispute at Air Canada this way. Last year when the flight attendants threatened to strike, the Minister referred the matter to the Canada Industrial Relations Board then too. Both management and labour eventually decided to accept binding arbitration.

Canada's Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, says the company is important enough that a work stoppage would damage the economy and cause unfair disruption to Canadians. She also says Air Canada and its unions have a responsibility to resolve their disputes without resorting to shutting the system down. The Prime Minister also spoke out about the Air Canada situation, affirming the stance that any stoppage by the airline would cause unacceptable disruption. He said Air Canada received government help during the recession to avoid shutting down, and he will not allow it to shut down now.

We want to hear what you think.

Is Air Canada an essential service that should not be allowed to strike? What about that most essential of rights ...the right of workers to withdraw their services if they think their working conditions are not adequate?

Is the airline industry too lopsided in the sense that a work stoppage by just one union would cause a major disruption to the lives and well-being of Canadians right across the country? Would the same thing happen if WestJet were to strike?

Does it make a difference if the economy is wobbly ...would it be ok to allow an Air Canada strike in prosperous times? Or, should Air Canada be given a different set of rules? What about the workers who have seen cutbacks and rollbacks in an industry hammered by economic woes?

Our question today: "Should Air Canada employees be allowed to strike?"

I'm Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


  • Lisa Raitt
    Canada's Minister of Labour

  • Dave Ritchie
    General V-P International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW),

  • Duncan Dee
    Air Canada Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer.

  • Rick Erickson
    Calgary-based aviation consultant and principal of RFP Erickson and Associates.

  • Paul Moist
    National President, Canadian Union of Public Employees.



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