FAB Crewmembers Abandon Federal Conciliation, Seek Arbitration

Negotiators for cockpit crewmembers at Canadian carrier First Air say they are deadlocked after almost two years at the bargaining table, and will seek an arbitrator to craft a new agreement at the northern airline.

Negotiators and the FAB MEC reached the decision after talks using a federally appointed conciliator broke down this week. Under the current contract, both sides are required to enter arbitration if face-to-face talks fail.

First Air’s crewmembers are seeking industry-standard cost of living increases and higher per diems. Many members of the group live and work in arctic communities with high living costs, but management wants lower cost-of-living adjustments that would move the FAB group below industry standard.

“We believe anything that makes the crewmember’s dollar less valuable is concessionary, and we’ve told management from the very beginning that we will not consider a concessionary contract,” said FAB MEC chairman F/O Devin Lyall.

First Air opened negotiations in late 2010. The parties will now enter an interest-based arbitration process where the arbitrator hears presentations from both sides and can either mediate the talks further or craft an arbitration award using elements from both union and management proposals.