CAW Denounces Harper Government's Misuse of Labour Rules

October 13, 2011, 1:30 PM EST

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The CAW is denouncing the recent actions of the federal Conservative government to prevent Air Canada flight attendants from exercising their legal right to strike during their current contract dispute.

CAW President Ken Lewenza called the decision by Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt to refer the impending (and legal) strike by CUPE members at Air Canada to the Canada Industrial Relations Board on the grounds of its threat to public safety and security "outrageous" and "unprecedented."
"Canadian democratic values are being stomped on by the Harper government. They are not concerned about the destructive labour relations climate they're fostering in Canada," Lewenza said, pointing to similar labour disputes that took place earlier this year between the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and Canada Post as well as CAW members at Air Canada that involved heavy-handed intervention by the federal government to thwart strike action.

"Labour Minister Lisa Raitt's justification for her repeated interference into collective bargaining is both shallow and dangerous," Lewenza said.

"She claims her government was elected with a strong mandate to promote economic stability and recovery, and hence won't tolerate otherwise legal work stoppages.  This implies that fundamental human rights and labour rights can be taken away when they are unpopular or inconvenient," Lewenza warned.

Lewenza said the government's actions have helped strengthen the bargaining position of the employer and has made a mockery of the collective bargaining process.

"Collective bargaining is a constitutional right and should include the right of either party to undertake a strike or lock-out to bring the dispute to a quicker and more effective resolution - as long as the safety and security of the public is protected," Lewenza said, noting that public safety and security are non-issues in the context of the flight attendants' dispute.

"Prohibiting workers from exercising their legal rights will further damage labour relations at Air Canada, make future disputes more difficult to resolve and harm the long term service and interests of the company."

The CAW is calling on labour leaders, civil libertarians, and other democratic Canadians to oppose the government's arbitrary and anti-democratic actions.

News: Postal Union Mounts Legal Battle with Ottawa (CBC News)
News: Air Canada Flight Attendants Plan Protests After Strike Blocked (Toronto Star)

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