The union representing Air Canada's mechanics, electricians and ramp crews says it has launched a constitutional challenge to the government's back-to-work legislation used to prevent a strike at the country's biggest airline.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said Monday the union will take the government to court over the measure known as Bill C-33 used to prevent some 8,300 of IAMAW members from striking on Mar. 12.
The challenge by the Machinists follows a similar filing by the union representing the company's pilots, who filed suit in Ontario Superior Court last month.
Both groups, which together represent more than 11,000 airline employees, are the last group of workers without updated collective agreements.
The pilots said the law that forces them to fly and accept a contract imposed by arbitration is contrary to Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Machinists union said the move has now thrust it into an arbitration process it calls biased, removing its Charter right to free association.
“Removing free collective bargaining and the right to strike from workers in the federal sector will poison labour relations between our members and Air Canada for years to come,'' said IAMAW Canadian general vice-president Dave Ritchie.
None of the claims have been proven in court.
Air Canada has been plagued with labour troubles over the last year.
The airline and its pilots and mechanics have been in a bitter contract feud that prompted the federal government to step in earlier this month. Ottawa has also had to intervene in contract
disputes involving the airline's flight attendants and its customer service agents.
“The government did not allow the free collective bargaining process to run its course,'' Ritchie said.
“Instead the government came down clearly on the side of the employer and declared open season on workers rights. We simply cannot stand by and allow that to happen.''
The IAMAW is Air Canada's largest union representing some 8,300 employees including mechanics, electricians, inspectors and baggage and cargo handlers.
The union will be represented by constitutional lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo, who is also representing the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in a similar challenge.
The House of Commons passed a bill in June ordering 48,000 Canada Post employees back to work.