CAW Opens Talks with Air Canada

May 22, 2009, 5:20 PM EST

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CAW officially opened contract negotiations with Air Canada on May 21 in downtown Toronto. The union agreement covers approximately 5,000 Air Canada customer service and sales representatives across the country.

The company has indicated to the union that it is looking for a 'stand-pat' agreement that aims to hold wages and benefits, said CAW Local 2002 President Leslie Dias.  

"The company has also made it very clear to us that pension and benefit funding will factor in as a major issue at the bargaining table," Dias said.

Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu has spoken publicly about the desperate need for a moratorium on pension payments to the company's pension plans. Air Canada is currently facing a $2.85 billion pension deficit.  

Peggy Nash, Assistant to the CAW President, said protecting worker pensions is one of the union's top priorities in these negotiations.  

Contract talks begin at a time when the possibility of Air
Canada sliding back in to CCAA bankruptcy protection has surfaced in recent news reports.

Bankruptcy protection is not where the union wants to see this negotiation process headed, Dias said.

"We will do everything in our power to stay clear of that. At the same time, regardless of how the company chooses to act, we are resolved to defend the wages, pensions and benefits that are rightfully ours."

In 2004, Air
Canada employees made significant concessions during the company's restructuring under CCAA protection, including extending the amortization period of unfunded pension liabilities from five to ten years.

The current collective agreement between CAW Local 2002 and Air Canada expired on May 31.

For regular updates on the talks, please visit the CAW Local 2002 website.

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