[MACLEANS.CA] It is the country’s biggest and most dysfunctional airline, at war with its unions, losing money and protected by Ottawa. There may be only one way out.

The Air Canada back-to-work legislation only made a bad situation worse, fuelling more labour hostilities and chaos for passengers.

The Air Canada back-to-work legislation only made a bad situation worse, fuelling more labour hostilities and chaos for passengers: Photo Cole Garside

The Air Canada back-to-work legislation, passed March 14, was meant to spare Canadians from the nightmare, both personal and economic, of a crippling strike by ground workers and a lockout of pilots at the country’s biggest airline. So far, however, it’s only made a bad situation worse, fuelling more labour hostilities and chaos for passengers.

As they returned from March break, sun-seekers still faced long delays after an unusually large number of pilots called in sick. A few days later, dozens of flights were delayed or cancelled after angry baggage handlers in Toronto launched another wildcat strike—this time in apparent retaliation for Air Canada’s decision to discipline three workers who gave federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt a mocking “slow clap” as she strolled through Pearson’s airy concourse.

More recently, television viewers were treated to the spectacle of pilots’ union president Paul Strachan on the CBC issuing veiled warnings about the potential for deteriorating safety standards at his employer. Wearing full uniform, he suggested the bankruptcy of Aveos Fleet Performance Inc., the airline’s former maintenance arm and major maintenance provider, could lead to future aircraft repairs being done at low-cost facilities in El Salvador, where employees can be paid as little as $16,000 a year. “My question to you is: Is this the man you want maintaining the aircraft that you fly on so frequently?” said Strachan. “I suspect not.”

Air Canada threatened to fire Strachan, calling him “irresponsible” and stressing it had no plans to service its jets in Central America (although it didn’t rule it out either). In response, a small group of pilots staged an illegal “sick-out” last week, causing the cancellation of more than 40 flights across the country and throwing the travel plans of thousands into disarray. “As a result of trying to legislate away uncertainty, they’ve done exactly the opposite,” George Smith, an adjunct professor in the school of policy studies at Queen’s University, says of Ottawa’s actions. “I’m sure that people looking at travelling for their summer vacations are now looking at the situation and saying, ‘ABAC—Anything But Air Canada.’ ”

That’s the last thing the money-losing airline needs as it grapples with lower-cost rivals while being dragged down by $3.9 billion in long-term debt. As the labour disputes mount, shares of the beleaguered airline have fallen nearly 20 per cent since February and now trade at just 87 cents, compared to an IPO price of $21 just six years ago…..

Read the full story at Macleans.ca….


Chris Sorensen
Monday, April 23, 201


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