Ottawa appointed an arbitrator on Tuesday in an attempt to resolve a dispute between Air Canada Inc. and its union concerning the layoffs of 2,000 employees.

On Tuesday, federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn named Brian Keller as the person to figure out under what conditions these workers, including 600 flight attendants, can be let go.

Air Canada announced the job cuts earlier this year as part of cost reduction program to deal with rising oil prices.

The Montreal-based airline and the Canadian Auto Workers requested an arbitrator after failing to reach an agreement as to the adjustments programs that would be made available to the laid-off employees.

Keller is a former vice-chairman of the Ontario Labour Relations Board and is an expert in collective bargaining.

Last month, Blackburn denied Air Canada's request to allow the airline to lay off employees Nov. 1 without first setting up a joint union-company committee to examine ways to ease the impact of the cuts.