Nearly a hundred Air Canada striking workers and their supporters held a rally and march at St. John’s International Airport Thursday at lunch time to protest their labour dispute. The two sides announced a tentative agreement later in the day. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Customer service and sales staff for Air Canada have packed up their signs and retired their fire drums following news of a tentative collective agreement between the airline and the striking workers’ union, CAW Airline Local 2002.
“It was absolutely phenomenal,” said Martina Dunne, chairwoman for District 501 in St. John’s. “I know the strike was only three days, but it was an emotional time.”
Workers will be back on the job today.
The deal includes the first wage increase for frontline workers in 10 years and protects the defined-benefit pension plans of current employees — slight modifications to the plan will come into effect in 2013, according to CAW president Ken Lewenza.
“There’s a lot of good things in there — wage increases and a lot of other good benefits we have lost or seen decline over the last 10 years,” said Dunne.
However, the union was unable to obtain a defined-benefit pension plan for new employees. The matter will instead go to arbitration under the tentative deal. Lewenza, who held a news conference Thursday afternoon once the deal was announced, said he regrets this outcome.
Protecting the pension plan for current employees was especially important to staff in St. John’s, said Dunne, as most of them are senior employees nearing retirement.
“Most of us are towards the end of our careers, so we like that,” she said.
Dunne will be travelling to Toronto with district vice-chairwoman Sandra Skeffington within the next day or so to learn more about the deal.
A meeting to go over the contract will be held once they return to St. John’s, after which a vote for ratification will be held.
Striking workers took part in a rally Thursday that included representatives from the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, and the Canadian Federation of Students, among others.