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AIR CANADA STRIKE Witholds

Air Canada has initiated parts of a plan to continue flying through a flight attendants strike even as its negotiators prepare to return to the bargaining table Tuesday afternoon.

The Montreal-based airline has started contacting passengers and making changes to some of its flights operated by its regional partner Jazz in preparation for a potential strike early Wednesday.

The airline says the changes are being made to some regularly scheduled Air Canada Express flights operated by its regional partner Jazz on Wednesday in order to serve the greatest number of passengers.

Air Canada is also offering customers who are booked to travel over the next six days a chance to change their flight dates free of charge.

The carrier's mainline flights are not currently affected by the contingency schedule preparations. But industry observers believe it would use trained managers and office personnel to maintain flights on its most lucrative routes.

The goal will be to preserve market share against rivals WestJet Airlines and Porter Airlines and rely on Star Alliance partners to supply other service.

The preparations are gearing up after talks broke off late Monday without an agreement.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the company's preference is to reach a deal with the Canadian Union of Public Employees without the federal government stepping in with back-to-work legislation.

The union said in an emailed statement that talks were expected to resume sometime in the afternoon.

In the meantime, the union held rallies at Parliament Hill in Ottawa and other locations as a show of support. In Toronto, the protest began at 10 a.m. outside Pearson Airport, at the Viscount train station. Similar rallies were held at 10 a.m. local time in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver.

Sal Occhiuzzi, 54, a flight attendant for 31 years, said workers just want a fair deal that will allow them to recover some of the money lost in the last decade.

"We helped the company out when things were tough and we all gave a lot and it's time for the company to give a bit back," he said at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

Banging drums and toting signs, flight attendants rallied at the country's largest airport, backed by several other of the airline's unions.

Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan said it is wrong for the federal government to use its majority to "beat down on workers."

He said Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has got to back out of private sector negotiations.

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