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Air Canada reaches tentative deal with biggest union

Baggage handlers unload an Air Canada flight at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Air Canada's largest union has reached a tentative agreement with the airline.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said Friday that it has signed a four-year pact on behalf of mechanics, baggage handlers, cargo agents, aircraft cleaners and electricians.

"I'm extremely happy that we've been able to get this agreement," machinists union leader Chuck Atkinson said in an interview, noting that it's now up to members to decide whether to ratify. The vote is expected to wrap up by Feb. 24.

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The 8,600-member IAMAW said the deal provides "wage and premium increases, improved benefits and secures a defined benefit pension fund for the members."

The four-year pact provides for a lump sum equal to 2 per cent of the regular base wage earned from March 31, 2010, to April 1, 2011, then annual wage increases of 2 per cent over two years, followed by 3 per cent in the final year, said sources who saw the tentative pact.

Many of the workers stand to receive improvements in vacation time and a 30-minute paid lunch, a benefit that they gave up during Air Canada's financial restructuring in 2003-04. Existing staff will adhere to their defined benefit pensions while new hires will be placed in a separate defined benefit system modified to incorporate the participation of other corporations where the IAMAW represents employees.

Air Canada and the IAMAW agreed to the contract during conciliation - a phase set to expire on Feb. 18. The union had been complaining about a series of layoffs this year at Air Canada and a former division of the airline called Aveos Fleet Performance Inc.

The carrier noted that the pact is subject to ratification by employees and approval by the company's board of directors. The previous collective agreement expired last March 31.

Members of the union's negotiating committee had to bargain hard, said Mr. Atkinson, who is president of the union's district lodge 140.

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About the Author

Brent Jang is a business reporter in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. He joined the Globe in 1995. His former positions include transportation reporter in Toronto, energy correspondent in Calgary and Western columnist for Report on Business. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway student newspaper. Mr. More

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