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Air Canada agrees to arbitration with union; Flight attendants can’t strike under deal
Vanessa Lu, Toronto Star

After setting two firm strike dates in the past month, the Canadian Union of Public Employees has agreed to binding arbitration to resolve its contract dispute with Air Canada, eliminating the threat of a walkout by 6,800 flight attendants.

The agreement came Thursday as the two sides met at the Canada Industrial Relations Board in Ottawa to deal with two questions that had been referred to the board by Labour Minister Lisa Raitt on the eve of last Thursday’s threatened strike by the flight attendants.

Raitt, who had threatened back-to-work legislation, asked the board to consider whether the airline provided an essential service and if a disruption would hurt the health and safety of the nation, as well as whether a deal could even be reached given that members had rejected two tentative deals recommended by the union leadership.

She also asked the board to consider imposing a deal or sending the dispute to binding arbitration.

When a minister raises the essential service question, it automatically suspends a union’s right to strike, so the move angered flight attendants who argued the federal government was intervening unfairly.

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