Air Canada vows business as usual after pilots' job action

Air Canada says it's preparing to resume a full flight schedule today after the federal labour relations board ordered the airline's pilots to end what was determined to be an illegal strike.

Airline spokesman says delays are spillover from previous day

Air Canada won an order from the Canadian Industrial Relations Board ruling that some pilots engaged in an illegal job action by calling in sick and causing flight delays and cancellations. (Michelle Siu/Canadian Press)

Air Canada says it's preparing to resume a full flight schedule today after the federal labour board ordered the airline's pilots to end what it deemed to be an illegal strike.

About 150 pilots called in sick Friday, causing dozens of flights to be cancelled.   The chair of Air Canada Pilots Association, representing 3,000 pilots, urging members to report for work and ignore their "small group" of colleagues who decided to call in sick.

Capt. Jean-Marc Bélanger, chair of the pilots association's executive council, said the union didn't initiate or sanction the job action.


Community reaction to Air Canada pilots' sick calls. See reader feedback and take our poll: Do you consider Air Canada a reliable airline? 

Capt. Paul Strachan, union president, said he’s not surprised that pilots are frustrated, now that the federal government has sent their contract dispute with the airline to arbitration. However, Bélanger said both sides have a legal obligation to refrain from work disruptions while arbitration is continuing.

The airline said the Canada Industrial Relations Board granted an order declaring that certain pilots were engaged in an illegal strike.

The order called on the pilots' union to take all reasonable steps to end the illegal job action and to pressure all participating pilots to return to work immediately, the airline said.

Despite promises of a normal weekend flight schedule, there is a ripple effect from Friday's events.

At Toronto's Pearson airport, eight Air Canada flights were cancelled early Saturday and more than 15 were delayed.

In Montreal, three flights have been cancelled and two delayed. In Halifax, there were reports of four flight delays.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick told CBC News on Saturday that the latest delays were a spillover from Friday's cancellations.

In March, federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt referred the airline’s disputes with the pilots and with Air Canada’s 8,600 ground crew to the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

A back-to-work bill was passed in mid-March but some ground workers staged a wildcat strike on March 23 that affected several Air Canada flights.

Flights were also cancelled March 18 when the airline faced runway problems at Pearson airport and pilots called in sick. It was followed a week later by a wildcat strike by ground staff in Toronto.

The Protecting Air Service Act removed the right to strike or lock out and ordered both disputes to be settled by arbitration.

Employees can be fined up to $1,000 and the union up to $50,000 for contravening the law.