Flight attendants bargain in bad faith?

Air Canada demanded compensation Thursday from the union representing its 6,800 flight attendants, accusing it of bargaining in bad faith.

The airline, which did not specify how much it was seeking, said the Canadian Union of Public Employees did not do enough to encourage the ratification of two tentative deals that were negotiated but later rejected.

"Though the company was given assurances of unanimous support from the CUPE leadership for the first tentative agreement, individual base presidents remained silent or expressed views against ratification during the ratification process," Air Canada alleged.

While a strike was averted, relations remain difficult between the Montreal air carrier and its workers, raising the possibility that future disruptions might affect the airline and inconvenience travellers.

Stripped of their ability to strike, flight attendants could take job action such as calling in sick and refusing to be flexible on maximum hours worked so that return flights have to be delayed, analyst Robert Kokonis said in an interview.

Employees at Australian airline Qantas and its low-cost carrier Jetstar refused to charge excess baggage fees in protest of their contract negotiations.

But Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said flight attendants "are professionals committed to customer service."

In the unfair labour practice complaint to the Canada Industrial Relations Board, Air Canada accused the union of increasing its demands during its latest round of bargaining and misrepresenting what its members would accept in a collective agreement.

"CUPE made these representations to Air Canada without having conducted any formal surveys of its membership. It is Air Canada, understanding that CUPE's conclusions were based solely on e-mails and reviews of Facebook discussions," the airline said of the union bargaining committee's assurances.

- With files from Peter Rakobowchuk in Montreal, Steve Rennie in Ottawa and Allison Jones in Milton, Ont.

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