MARCH 20 2012 23:13h

Air Canada pilots fight for strike rights

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TORONTO, March 20 (UPI) -- The union representing Air Canada's pilots went to court Tuesday to refute Conservatives' federal legislation banning them from going on strike.

The Air Canada Pilots Association filed an appeal with the Ontario Superior Court in Toronto, claiming the government action was contravening the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Postmedia News reported.

The pilots have been in fruitless negotiations with airline management for 18 months, during which time the federal government has rushed back-to-work legislation through three times for other Air Canada unions threatening to strike.

Paul Strachan, a pilot who is the union's president, issued a statement criticizing the stance taken by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

"Our pilots are professionals with the freedom to associate and bargain collectively under the Canada Labor Code," he said. "The Harper government's bill clearly violates their rights and should be struck down by the courts."

During the weekend, an unusually high number of pilots called in sick, resulting in 39 flight cancellations. The union denied that was related to the ongoing labor dispute.