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Ottawa, ON - Canada’s largest union is urging the Harper Conservative government to halt legislation forcing striking CAW members at Air Canada to return to work. The Canadian Union of Public Employees is calling for the rights of Air Canada workers to be respected.

This is an unprecedented attack on the collective bargaining rights of Canadian workers,” says Paul Moist, national president of CUPE. “The airline’s management says it’s been ‘business as usual’ during the strike, and there is no indication it has had a harmful effect on the national economy. Federal intervention at this stage is totally unjustified and in stark contravention of the Canada Labour Code.”

Moist says the Harper Conservative’s back to work legislation is a deliberate action to lower wages and erode benefits for not just CAW members, but for all Canadian workers. 

To move so quickly can only be seen as a pre-emptive action by the federal government to strengthen Air Canada’s hand over its workers,” says Moist. “It sets a dangerous precedent for all unionized workers in this country, and sends the clear message that corporate interests will be put before those of Canadian workers.”

To reiterate the union’s concerns, Moist sent a letter to Labour Minister Lisa Raitt voicing the union’s strong opposition to the proposed back to work legislation, covering CAW customer service and sales agents at Air Canada.

Your decision to introduce back to work legislation is another example of your government’s continuing failure to address the retirement needs of Canadians,” wrote Moist. “Such legislation will only strengthen the hand of a large federal employer intent on dismantling and abandoning its defined benefit workplace pension plan, a key ingredient in providing adequate retirement income for working people.”

CUPE’s Air Canada component, representing more than 6,800 flight attendants, is currently in collective bargaining with the airline. Air Canada has tabled similar pension plan concessions to CUPE members that lead to the CAW strike.

Moist concluded his letter by urging Minister Raitt to respect the collective bargaining process. “Your government should not so openly and provocatively take the side of an employer seeking major pension concessions and the ultimate abolition of its workplace defined benefit pension plan,” wrote Moist.

To show support to CAW workers, Moist will be in the House of Commons for the introduction and debate on the back to work legislation. He will be available to media following the debate, at approx. 11 a.m. ET.

CUPE is Canada’s largest union, representing more than 608,000 workers across the country.