Air Canada files dispute notice: pilots union

Labour Minister must appoint a conciliator within 15 days

(Reuters) - Air Canada has filed a dispute notice with the federal government in connection with stalled contract talks with its pilots, effectively drawing Ottawa into the bargaining process, the pilots union said on Thursday, expressing its disappointment at the move.

"Just last week, we proposed a date for returning to the bargaining table," Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) president Captain Paul Strachan said in a statement.

"Instead, Air Canada has unilaterally decided to involve the federal government in our negotiations," Strachan said.

The dispute filing effectively starts the clock running on negotiations between the two parties. Under Canada's Labour Code, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt needs to appoint a conciliator to take part in the talks within 15 days of receiving the dispute notice.

Air Canada was not immediately available for comment.

Pilots at Air Canada, the country's biggest airline, rejected a tentative labor agreement in May that their union bargaining committee had reached with the carrier.

ACPA represents about 3,000 pilots at Air Canada.

Talks between the two sides had not resumed since the contract was rejected. The pilots' last contract expired on March 31, 2011.

It has been a fractious summer for labour relations at Air Canada, which has been negotiating new contracts with all its labour unions.

The airline was hit with a three-day strike by ticketing and sales agents in June and narrowly avoided two separate strikes by its flight attendants only after Ottawa stepped in

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