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Air Canada union says reaches tentative labour deal

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Striking service workers at Air Canada Inc. (AC.B-T) have reached a tentative labour agreement with the country's biggest airline, the Canadian Auto Workers union said Thursday.
    
"We've reached a tentative agreement with Air Canada, just a few moments ago," CAW spokeswoman Shannon Devine said in an email to Reuters.
    
She said the union, which represents the 3,800 airport ticketing, check-in and call center staff that have been on strike for three days, would hold a press conference at 2 p.m. ET in Toronto.
    
Air Canada could not immediately be reached for comment.
    
Earlier Thursday, the union had said it was hopeful of a deal as it believed the two sides had found "middle ground" on the issue of pensions, which was the last sticking point in contract negotiations.
    
Air Canada wants to do away with its defined benefit pension plan for new hires, which it says is too expensive as it looks for ways to reduce its deep pension deficit.
    
It has also proposed changes to pensions for existing employees that would see some having to work more years for the same benefit. The union had vehemently opposed both proposals.
    
Devine said the union was eager to reach an agreement before legislation is brought by the federal government to force striking employees back to work.
    
The House of Commons formally introduced the back-to-work legislation Thursday and also debated a motion to speed it through.
    
Earlier, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said it could take a little more than a week for the strike to have serious effects as she justified plans to legislate strikers back to work quickly.
    
Opposition politicians roasted Raitt for having served notice of back-to-work legislation on the first day of the strike.
    
Air Canada had deployed 1,700 of its managers at airports across Canada to take the reins at check-in and ticketing desks, and diverted customer calls to centers in the United States. Disruptions appeared to be minor and mostly confined to flight delays.
    
The Montreal-based company is also in contract talks with four other unions, including its pilots, flight attendants and maintenance workers, after agreements expired earlier this year.
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