MONTREAL—On Dec. 20, 1996, members of Canadian Airlines' three major unions completed their cross-country voting on concessions demanded by the company. Members of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) approved the package by 81 percent, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) voted 88 percent in favor, and the flight attendants, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, ratified the wage cuts proposal by 89 percent.
Under the agreement, workers earning less than $25,000 a year will be exempted from the cuts. A graduated percentage will be slashed from wages, reaching a 5 percent maximum cut for CAW members. The wages will stay frozen until the year 2000.
The 3,900 CAW members held their vote under the cloud of the federal government's decision to force a vote over the heads of the union officials. While decrying the government's threat, CAW president Basil Hargrove refused to challenge the government move, saying to do so would open the way for more sweeping government legislation harmful to all unions.
Larry Johnston, a cleaner at Canadian Airlines and member of IAM Lodge
764, voted against the concessions. He told the Militant,
majority voted yes because there was no alternative. People are
dissatisfied with the offer despite the high vote.
The CAW officialdom's stance throughout negotiations was in the
framework on how to
save the airline industry. Speaking to a
December 6-8 meeting of the national CAW Canada Council, Hargrove
stated that he was trying to
find a solution that will end the
predatory pricing in the airline industry. He added that union
won the support of the vast majority of CAW members for
our union's refusal to cut wages one more time with no
Part of the package Hargrove recommended to the membership includes guaranteed establishment of a committee made up of union, business, and government forces to study the airlines industry. The CAW has been campaigning for reinstating regulations that were phased out in the 1980s.
He pointed to the
valuable assistance of British Columbia
premier Glen Clark, of the New Democratic Party, in giving Canadian
Airlines $11 million. Robert Rae, a former NDP premiere in Ontario,
also served as a legal representative for the IAM in negotiating the
Meanwhile, restructuring of regional airlines has provoked other
conflicts in the industry recently. Two hundred Air BC flight
attendants struck for three weeks in December. As she walked the
picket line, Lesley Wasylyk said,
What's at issue is
deteriorating working conditions for us.... I stood 100 percent with
the Canadian Airline workers against the cuts. That's never the
Nine hundred pilots are threatening to strike against four of Air Canada's regional carriers on January 10. Wages are a key issue in that dispute.
Air Canada's 3,500 ticket agents, members of the CAW, ratified a new contract in December. It calls for an 8 percent wage hike over the next two and a half years, the first wage increase for these workers since 1991.