Air Canada employees protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the Government's involvement in ordering a back-to-work legislation for employees, September 20, 2011.
Credits: Chris Roussakis/QMI Agency
OTTAWA - Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said Monday back-to-work legislation is drafted and ready to go if Air Canada flight attendants walk off the job later this week.
The minister told Sun News Network a strike by the company's 6,800 flight attendants would be a "shock to the system" for Canada's economy.
Raitt noted the airline is both a leading domestic carrier and a major international carrier, and a strike would disrupt passenger travel and cargo shipments.
The airline was served with a strike notice by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the union which represents the airline's flight attendants, late Sunday after members rejected the second tentative offer since August.
In a statement, Jeff Taylor, president of the Air Canada component of CUPE, urged Ottawa to stay out of the dispute.
"We ask the federal government, in the strongest possible terms, to respect our right to collective bargaining and not intervene unilaterally in this dispute," he said.
But Raitt said union members had exhausted their right to bargain twice already, and rejected the tentative agreements hashed out by the union and Air Canada.
"They've had two kicks at the can on this one," she said.
Still, Raitt is holding back on calling an emergency sitting of the House of Commons to get the bill through. Parliamentarians are on break this week.
Meanwhile, the NDP said Monday it will vote against any legislation ending the potential strike.
But it's still up in the air whether the New Democrats will try to filibuster the legislation like they did in June during the Canada Post strike, or implement other measures in an attempt to scuttle the Conservative government's efforts.
"We have not had that discussion," NDP finance critic Peggy Nash said.
Air Canada employees could strike as early as Thursday.