Ottawa passes bill to block Air Canada strike, lockout

Labour Minister expects bill to pass Senate in 2 days

(Reuters) — Canada's House of Commons passed a bill overnight to prevent a work stoppage at Air Canada, and the Senate should pass it by the end of the day on March 15 to enable it to become law, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said.

The bill, which will send two separate labor disputes to binding arbitration, will prevent both a threatened strike by the airline's machinists, and lockout of pilots by the airline.

"With no prospect of resolution in sight, our government acted to ensure air services are not halted, which would in turn harm businesses and travelers alike," Raitt said in a statement.

She later told reporters she expected the Senate would pass the bill within two days.

While the bill is still before Parliament, Raitt has effectively staved off a strike or lockout by asking the Canada Industrial Relations Board last Thursday to decide whether Air Canada is a service essential for Canadians' health and safety.

She said it was up to the board whether to continue to consider that question after the bill becomes law.

"I would hope that they'll still consider the issue and take a look at it because the health and safety question is still outstanding," she said.

The labour tribunal did start looking at the question last year during another dispute at Air Canada but stopped once the airline and the union came to an agreement.

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