The union representing 3,000 Air Canada pilots has called a strike vote, saying mediated contract talks have stalled.
Captain Gary Tarves, chairman of the Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA), said management is seeking too many concessions.
"Under these circumstances, the time for you to make your decision has come. Fellow Air Canada pilots, we have no option other than to commence a vote seeking a mandate to defend your rights and interests," Capt. Tarves said in a memo to pilots.
The previous contract expired on March 31, 2011.
Capt. Tarves said bargaining is in a crucial phase and there aren't signs of management budging.
The union's negotiating committee has been making presentations to pilots this week, clearing the way for a five-day strike vote. The voting period is shorter than the traditional 10 days.
"The corporation has tabled a position that asks for more concessions and threatens our entire careers through scope changes that would ship much of our flying outside Air Canada, possibly offshore," Capt. Tarves said, referring to management studying the launch of a low-cost international carrier.
ACPA has a litany of complaints over management's "extreme" changes envisaged for pensions, extending the retirement age beyond 60, subcontracting regional flying and outsourcing the planned discount leisure airline.
If ACPA obtains its strike mandate, the union has to provide 72-hour notice of any walkout.
A cooling-off period is set to expire on Feb. 14.
"There should be only one logical conclusion that you draw from the information we have presented – that is to show your unwavering support for your fellow Air Canada pilots and, indeed, for your profession. There is truly no alternative," Capt. Tarves said.
He emphasized that while ACPA is seeking a strike mandate, no decision has been made on whether to hold a walkout. "We are not initiating any industrial action at this point, whatsoever. That would be a separate decision and would depend on the corporation's actions Feb. 14 and beyond," Capt. Tarves said.
Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt and officials from her department met with representatives from ACPA and Air Canada on Monday.