VICTORIA (NEWS1130) -  Last week’s Air Canada wildcat strikes and flight disruptions may be just the beginning.

Labour relations expert Ken Thornicroft feels the carrier may have hurt its reputation beyond repair. “I can’t imagine that people would want to fly on Air Canada unless they absolutely have to.”

Thornicroft is a professor of Business Law at the University of Victoria and feels most travelers don’t want to risk the chance they’ll be grounded thanks to more labour unrest.

He says legally, the dispute should be resolved fairly quickly, “But there’s obviously a great deal of angst around this process and it’s hard to predict exactly how individual employees might respond.”

Thornicroft believes that the unpredictability of future disruptions has really shaken consumer confidence.

He says since the government brought in back-to-work legislation, he sees a lot of anger with Air Canada workers. “It seems for the moment, these wildcat strike were undertaken without any authorization or direction from the union leadership. That’s always a problematic area when the union loses control of its own members.”

Thornicroft adds if the union does lose control, we can expect this dispute to drag on indefinitely.

The wildcat strike was prompted after three Air Canada employees in Toronto were suspended for heckling Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt. At Pearson Airport, baggage handlers staged their own walkout to show support for their colleagues.

Over the past year, Air Canada has been plagued with labour troubles. The airline and its pilots and mechanics have been in a bitter contract feud that prompted the federal government to step in with legislation banning strikes or lockouts.

Ottawa also had to intervene in contract disputes involving the airline’s flight attendants and its customer service agents.