The 2015-2025 agreement included two ‘reopeners’ – opportunities to bargain changes to the Collective Agreement. The re-opener language of the agreement contemplated that the Parties would try to negotiate a renewal and if an agreement was not achieved, the dispute would be referred to interest arbitration. Interest arbitration is a process in which an arbitrator determines what the Parties would have negotiated if a deal had been reached. The interest arbitration process agreed to in the 2015-2025 agreement, however, prohibits the arbitrator from awarding certain types of changes, for example, wage increases, allowances, job security, flow though, etc. This agreement further prohibits the arbitrator from awarding proposals that would increase Air Canada Mainline’s overall cost and it restricts them from awarding proposals that would increase Rouge’s unless certain conditions are met. In other words, the reopeners are quite limited, and not suitable to a high inflation environment, which obviously was not contemplated.
The first reopener took place following the expiry of the 2015-2019 Collective Agreement. Arbitrator Ready’s interest arbitration award was issued in 2022.
The Parties have just completed the interest arbitration for the second reopener, following the expiry of the 2019-2022 Collective Agreement. The arbitration took place on October 23, 2023 before Arbitrator Eli Gedalof. We anticipate receiving the Arbitrator’s decision in the coming months.
In advance of the arbitration, the Parties were required to table interest arbitration proposals, and the proposals were required to comply with the limitations imposed by the Collective Agreement, described above.
The Union proposed the following:
1. Deadhead rescheduling: Permitting cabin personnel to modify deadhead flights that Air Canada assigns to them, subject to seat availability (proposed Article 19.13).
2. Onboard crew rest: Confirming that onboard crew rest entitlements provided for in letters of understanding 18 and 22 are based on the duration of the scheduled “or re-forecast” duty day, rather than only the scheduled duty day (Articles L18 and 22).
3. Galley bid position: Extending the ability for cabin personnel to bid for the “galley” position on flights, from certain Boeing 777 aircraft to all wide-body aircraft (Article B4.02.01.01).
As Mainline’s costs can’t increase pursuant to the re-opener terms, the Union’s Mainline proposals were no cost proposals.
1. Parking: Providing cabin personnel with airport parking passes (proposed Article L55.08.07).
2. Commission for onboard sales: Providing cabin personnel with a commission for onboard sales, to be divided equally between all operating crew members (proposed Article L55.07.07).
3. Draft procedure: Providing cabin personnel with credit protection when drafted from a scheduled pairing equal to the greater of the pairing dropped or the pairing operated and reinforcing the prohibition on drafting on “untouchable days off” (Article L55.14.12.01).
4. Prone rest: Ensuring that cabin personnel receive at least eight hours of prone rest at layover hotels (proposed Article L55.15.02.01).
5. Reassignment: Providing cabin personnel with compensation when subject to reassignment that adds “the value of the originally scheduled pairing” to the methods for calculating such compensation (Article L55.15.07).
The Rouge proposals are reasonable and justifiable in light of comparators and cost of living increases.
The Company proposed the following:
1. Special Assignments: Lengthening the term of all special assignments from one year to three, changing the ineligibility period, and other changes to the special assignment system.
2. LOU 1: In-Charge – Filling of Vacancies: Air Canada proposed to entirely eliminate seniority from the service director hiring requirements. It did so based on a bald and offensive allegation that senior flight attendants and current service directors do not have “the skills, ability, and qualifications required to successfully perform the role of Service Director”. It proposed to grant itself discretion to select service directors and to establish a new hiring process.
3. Award Sequence: Air Canada proposed to change the award sequence to permit it to use the reserve assignment procedure “at any time in the award sequence at Air Canada’s discretion”. In other words, Air Canada has sought the right to bypass regular blockholders who are interested and available to perform the required flying, even when there is no operational need to do so. In practice, Air Canada will always choose to award flying to the cabin crew member with the lower pay entitlement.
4. Pre/Post Duty Period: Air Canada proposed to amend Article B5.02.01 to specify that Service Directors’ ground duty time be excluded from both duty period limitations and the calculations of guarantees and flight time limitations if they are required to report for duty earlier than the rest of their crew. It proposed to reduce the entitlements to Service Directors.
5. Maximum Monthly Limitation: Air Canada proposed to make four main changes to the MML rule in article B5.01.01: permitting it to (1) increase the MML to a number between 80 and 85 hours, instead of 85 in all cases; (2) increase the MML in all months in a year, instead of four months; (3) increase the MML by 25 hours in a year, instead of 20; and (4) not provide an estimate to the Union of the months for which the MML will be increased.
6. LOU 46: B-777: Air Canada proposed to make one change to LOU 46: removing its obligation to provide any oxygen bottles in the crew rest unit to cabin personnel on such flights.
7. Printed Bid Packages: Air Canada proposed to remove any entitlement for the Union or its members to receive printed bid materials.
The Union opposed these seven concessionary proposals. In the previous interest arbitration re-opener on the heels for the pandemic, Air Canada had tabled only four proposals, including an MML-related concession, and a concessionary amendment to the Award Sequence. The arbitrator from the previous round declined to award both. This round, despite the airline being in a much stronger financial position and employees faced with increased costs of living, Air Canada tabled seven concessionary proposals, many of which have been rejected by the Union and its members in previous rounds. As indicated, it again table concessionary MML and Award Sequence proposals. The Union strongly opposes any concessions and made its position very clear to Arbitrator Gedalof. Financial analysis from an expert witness was filed in support of the Union’s position.
The Company did not table any Rouge proposals.
We await Arbitrator Gedalof’s award and will update you when we know the outcome of the interest arbitration.