The Canadian government is set to pass back to work legislation for certain categories of Air Canada employees to prevent any major disruption of air travel by a potential labour dispute following difficult and unsuccessful collective bargaining (see here). The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Labour, introduced a bill to this effect yesterday and it is expected that it will be adopted by tomorrow. The legislation would require that the disputes over working terms and conditions be referred to binding arbitration.
Back to work legislation for Air Canada was also considered back in 2011 (see a Slaw blog posting by Shaunna Mireau here). Similar legislation was adopted last summer for postal workers, putting an end to rotating strikes (Gabriel Granatstein posted on this subject on this blog).
Critics consider back to work legislation as undue interference in labour relations and a weakening of unionized workers’ rights. In this particular case, the government relies on the importance of air travel for the economy and the inconvenience that would be caused to travelers. The matter on whether or not air travel is an essential service has been referred to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board. Is there a right, wrong or better way to handle these difficult labour relations situations?