Canadian flag carrier Air Canada is preparing for strike action slated to begin next week.

The airline hopes to avoid significant delays amid the busy March Break travel period after the largest industry union in Canada announced that it will initiate walkouts after it’s members rejected the latest contract offer for workers late last month.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), which represents more than 8,600 Air Canada employees including mechanics, baggage handlers and cargo agents, said yesterday that strikes would begin as planned on Monday if no deal is reached with the carrier’s management. However officials said the union is hopeful that the two sides can come to an agreement before the March Break rush begins.

Meanwhile, Duncan Dee, Air Canada’s chief operating officer, said in a statement that the airline recognised that the IAMAW notice for strikes comes at a time that could mean significant disruptions for large numbers of passengers but said the company was keeping the “lines of communication open” in the effort of avoiding delays and cancellations.

The news comes after a 23 February vote in which some 78 per cent of IAMAW members elected to throw out a four-year offer from the airline that would have raised wages and kept existing employees on defined-benefit retirement schemes but would’ve offered reduced benefits for new hires. However, the union said that the proposal was a “sub-standard” offer and that workers were actually making fewer dollars than they had nine years ago.