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Tentative deal struck between Air Canada and its flight attendants

Air Canada and the union representing its flight attendants have agreed on a tentative deal, averting a strike that was to start just after midnight.

Negotiations between the airline and its 6,800 flight attendants began Sunday morning.

“It’s business as usual and customers can continue to make their travel plans on Air Canada with confidence,” Susan Welscheid, Air Canada’s senior vice-president of customer service said in a statement.

In August, the Air Canada flight attendants had resoundingly rejected a tentative deal the Canadian Union of Public Employees negotiated with the airline, forcing the two sides back to the drawing board. The key areas of dispute were wages, pensions, crew rest, working conditions and work rules.

CUPE said it will hold meetings of its membership in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal over the next week.

Union president Jeff Taylor said its “executive committee will recommend that its members accept this tentative agreement.”

A strike deadline had been set for just after midnight Wednesday, though federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt had warned she would introduce back-to-work legislation.

Minutes after the deal was announced by the union, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt stood in the House of Commons to call on union members to ratify the agreement.

“The objective of the legislation that we put on notice yesterday has been achieved and we are so very pleased that air service for Canadians will be protected.”

A walkout in June by the airline’s customer service agents lasted just three days before a deal was reached under a threat by Raitt that she would legislate them back to work.

The Air Canada deal with its flight attendants was announced soon after the two sides resumed face-to-face talks and hours after they broke off negotiations in the middle of the night.

It prompted Air Canada’s shares to soar nearly seven per cent, gaining 11 cents to $1.70 in Tuesday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The parties were called back to the table by mediators early in the afternoon to deal with three outstanding issues. Talks broke off Monday evening several hours after the union presented an offer.