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Air Canada pilots end 10-year contract framework, eye bargaining

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By Allison Lampert

MONTREAL (Reuters) -Air Canada’s pilots have ended a decade-long contract framework, opening the door to “full bargaining this summer,” their union leadership said on Monday in a note to members seen by Reuters.

Air Canada pilots have previously said they are pressing for “historic” gains to narrow the earnings gap with higher-paid aviators at U.S. carriers.

Their counterparts at Onex Corp’s WestJet Airlines reached a tentative agreement that would offer a 24% hourly raise over four years, plus other pay and benefits.

The estimated 4,500 pilots at Canada’s largest carrier have received a 2% wage increase per year since reaching a deal in 2014.

The union had a Monday deadline for using a type of escape clause that would allow for negotiations this year. The agreement now runs until Sept. 29, 2023, although its provisions will apply beyond that date.

“We were willing to meet with the company if they wanted to provide us with a substantial proposal that would further our membership’s goals,” said the letter, adding Air Canada did not seek to open discussions.

The Air Canada pilots group, which joined the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) this month, said in a separate document it expects a notice to bargain to be provided in early June.

“Our pilots may elect to use the option that was available to them to initiate bargaining for a new collective agreement,” Montreal-based Air Canada said in an emailed statement.

“The current agreement, which has been in place for nine years, is testimony of the productive relationship we have with our pilots.”

U.S. pilots made gains in a recent tentative agreement with American Airlines and a separate deal with Delta Air Lines which delivers a 34% pay increase over four years.

(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Chris Reese)

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