|I like my Air Canada pilots, mechanics to be happy on the job
Michael Babad | Columnist profile | E-mail
Globe and Mail Update
Published Thursday, Mar. 08, 2012 1:03PM EST
Last updated Thursday, Mar. 08, 2012 4:34PM EST
I like my pilots and mechanics to be happy on the job
Lisa Raitt is one very impatient Labour Minister.
Determined to head off any work stoppages at Canada's biggest airline, Ms. Raitt today sent two labour disputes to the Canada Industrial Relations Board, The Globe and Mail's Brent Jang and Bill Curry report. That means the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers can't strike next week as threatened, and Air Canada can't lock out its pilots, also as threatened.
Ms. Raitt cited the "fragile economy" and "whether a work stoppage at Air Canada is going to have an effect on the health and safety of Canadians at large" in taking the matter to the CIRB.
Health and safety of Canadians? Well, maybe, if you consider that the health of parents could be in jeopardy when their kids start screaming about their vacation being cancelled. Next week is March Break, which means time off for many Canadian school children.
Ms. Raitt has an awfully twitchy trigger finger, as she has shown before.
To be fair, yesterday she urged Air Canada and the IAMAW to get back to the table and settle the dispute. But to be honest, she should keep her nose out of collective bargaining, at least at this point.
Of course the union chose March break for a reason. And as Ms. Raitt should know, being the Labour Minister and all, management-union bargaining frequently goes down to the wire. That's why unions and management alike set deadlines for strikes and lockouts.
I'm not saying who's right or wrong at the bargaining table, only that Ms. Raitt should have stayed out of it.
She might want to listen to George Smith, Air Canada's former director of employee relations, who sat across the table from the unions many times and doesn't like what he sees.
"We had strikes and lockouts over my 10 years at Air Canada and the government never had to intervene," said Mr. Smith, a fellow at the Queen's University School of Policy Studies.
"This has all the appearances of the federal government doing what’s best for the country but really it’s a disaster ... If you are negotiating a difficult labour contract, the process is being taken out of your hands and the government will do it for you. The ‘showdown’ element which hurts in the short run but results in a fair settlement is gone. The net result will be labour agreements that are uncompetitive."