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O Brother Where Art Thou

March 25, 2012 by staff 

O Brother Where Art Thou, When labour-friendly delegates to the federal NDP convention cast their eyes skyward Friday, they may not have been looking for divine inspiration on a leadership choice.

A wildcat strike by Air Canada workers that spread from Toronto through Quebec City, Montreal and Vancouver complicated the life of some New Democrats attempting to get to the weekend convention in Toronto, straining the labour brotherhood for at least one card-carrying member.

More than 80 Air Canada flights were cancelled and some 83 delayed by the illegal walkout, stranding some New Democrats in the process.

“It is very inconvenient for the travelling public, myself included,” Griffyn Chezenko, a 24-year-old NDP delegate and St. John’s university student, said in Montreal as he waited for a connector flight to his Toronto destination.

“I do sympathize with the workers – but strictly as a traveller right now, I can’t be nothing but pissed-off.”

Chezenko’s initial flight from Newfoundland was delayed Friday morning and he wasn’t sure when he’d get off the ground in Montreal – even as the final leadership speeches got underway in Toronto.

“I might be fashionably late (for the convention),” he said.

NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice had his morning flight from Montreal cancelled and ended up flying to Toronto with Porter later in the afternoon – too late for his planned participation in a presentation by leadership candidate Brian Topp.

It’s not the first time an Air Canada labour dispute has tripped up Canada’s champions of labour, the NDP.

Last June, the Canadian Auto Workers created headaches when the union asked the party not to use Air Canada after customer service agents walked off the job on the eve of an NDP policy convention in Vancouver.

Delegates to that policy convention were forced to use the proudly non-union WestJet and other smaller carriers.

NDP MP Jack Harris said he saw a number of protesting Air Canada employers with signs in St. John’s on Friday morning, but said his flight to Toronto was not delayed.

The St. John’s MP rattled off a list of actions by the Conservative government that he said were hostile to labour, and said he had no difficulty understanding why Friday’s illegal – and unsanctioned – job action occurred.

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