Air Canada wildcat: who’s got the power?

While the Toronto Star's David Olive at least bothers to have a peak at why those Machinists at Pearson walked off the job the other day, he still has on the usual ideological blinkers that make him think that it's okay for one rich man to exercise arbitrary power over travellers, but it's not okay for a hundred working stiffs to do the same thing.

While the Toronto Star’s David Olive at least bothers to have a peak at why those Machinists at Pearson walked off the job the other day, he still has on the usual ideological blinkers that make him think that it’s okay for one rich man to exercise arbitrary power over travellers, but it’s not okay for a hundred working stiffs to do the same thing.

I’m sure a lot of Air Canada travellers were pissed when a four hour walkout screwed their travel plans. Had I been there, I would have been upset too, especially since there’s no way that the customer service people were going to explain what was really going on.

In case you’ve been fed this story from the No Such Thing as a Legitimate Workers Issue media, here’s what happened.

Local managers had been getting baggage handlers to fudge time card rules whenever needed to improve the workflow. Workers were working through breaks and lunch hours, and leaving early. Their supervisor, or another worker would swipe their cards at the appropriate moment.

Then Air Canada management secretly filmed the punch clock and claims to have caught a bunch of other stuff. Workers were threatened with discipline or discharge for participating in a practice which management had hitherto sanctionned and encouraged when it suited them.

When management rejected the union’s proposal, “let’s let bygones be bygones and all of us agree to stick to the rules,” the walkout happened.

Olive says of the union members’ power, It’s amazing what havoc a brief, four-hour work stoppage at one airport by a mere 115 members of just one of Air Canada’s many unions can do.

Well, how about this for power: disrupt or damage, even ruin tens of thousands of thousands of lives by laying off workers, implement new bumping and overbooking rules that strand thousands of passengers, squeeze every cent out of paying customers while looking for ways to cut corners on safety regulations.

Or, how about: change fare and schedule regulations so that airlines aren’t obliged to fly to outlying areas or unpopular destinations, or if they do, allow the airlines to charge whatever they want?

I’m talking about the power that Robert Milton has and the power of the federal government, both of whom have far more agency, far more power and bear far more responsibility for the problems Air Canada has than all the Machinists, CUPE, CAW and pilots association members combined.

Air Canada workers have been through hell these past few years. They’ve had pay cuts, benefit cuts, they’ve seen their pension raided, they’ve been denied UI, and what do they get? More of the same. Robert Milton got a bonus.

When workers exercise arbitrary power, they get disciplined, and fired. When the boss does it, he gets his memoirs published.