Air Canada expects return to normal service after pilots stage 'sick-out' 0
Air Canada says it will be business as usual Saturday after pilots staged a "sick-out" Friday.
About 75 flights were affected after the "illegal job action" taken by pilots, Air Canada said in a release late Friday. Thousands of travellers were left to find other means of getting to their destinations, or waited to rebook onto later flights.
The Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) granted a request by the carrier to declare some pilots were participating in the illegal strike and ordering the Air Canada Pilots Association to "take all reasonable steps" to end the sick-out.
"The vast majority of Air Canada's pilots reported to work today and performed their duties as the true professionals they are," the company's vice president and chief operating officer Duncan Dee said in a release.
The job action involved numerous pilots calling in sick at the same time. It's unclear how many pilots were involved.
Air Canada issued a nationwide warning that travellers might experience delays and cancellations all weekend due to "airport disruptions."
At Montreal's Trudeau Airport, QMI Agency asked a pilot if he would report to work, and he smiled and said: "I think I have a heart problem."
Steven Brown was supposed to be on a 7 a.m. direct flight home to Calgary from Toronto, but it was cancelled 10 minutes before boarding. "One of the attendants just came on the intercom and said, 'It's cancelled, there are no other flights, you should all just go home.' There was no other explanation," he said. Brown said he was able to re-book on a 9 a.m. WestJet flight but it's going to cost him $200 more than the Air Canada flight he booked and it stops twice before arriving in Calgary. "At least I'm going to get home," he said from the waiting lounge at Pearson's Terminal 3. "I'll probably stick with WestJet until Air Canada gets (its labour situation) straightened out."
The protest came after the airline threatened to reprimand union president Capt. Paul Strachan over remarks he made on CBC questioning Air Canada's safety after 2,600 maintenance workers at Aveos lost their jobs.
In March, flights were disrupted nationwide when Air Canada ground crews staged an impromptu wildcat strike to protest two of their colleagues getting suspended for clapping ironically at Labour Minister Lisa Raitt.
Relations between Air Canada and its workers have been increasingly tense since Raitt and the federal government passed a back-to-work bill in March that bans strikes or lockouts for Air Canada mechanics, ground crews and pilots.
The pilots have since launched a Charter of Rights challenge of the legislation.
"Our pilots are professionals with the freedom to associate and bargain collectively under the Canada Labour Code," Strachan said in a press release earlier this week. "The Harper government's bill clearly violates their rights and should be struck down by the courts."
Raitt, however, stood by the bill on Friday.
"By introducing and passing back-to-work legislation, we put the public interest and the Canadian economy first to ensure that Canadians can continue to fly," she said in a statement.
The minister also condemned Friday's job action.
"Illegal work stoppages have disturbed and disrupted travel for Canadians," she said. "We encourage the parties to resolve their internal disputes and restore the confidence of the travelling public."
- With files from Brian Gray and Brian Daly