* Government bill passed Thursday afternoon
* Bill prevents strike, lock out at airline
TORONTO, March 15 (Reuters) - The union representing 3,000 pilots at Air Canada said on Thursday it will launch a legal challenge to Canadian government legislation preventing a strike or lockout at the airline, the country's biggest.
Air Canada Pilots Association President Paul Strachan said in an email that the union will fight the bill, which was passed by the House of Commons overnight Tuesday. The email did not provide details on what form the challenge would take.
The bill, which the Senate passed Thursday afternoon, prevents the airline from locking out pilots as well as members of its machinists' union, and it also prevents the two unions from striking. It sends Air Canada's contract disputes with the two unions to binding arbitration.
While the legislation was passing through Parliament, the government averted work stoppages at Air Canada temporarily by asking the Canada Industrial Relations Board last Thursday to determine if the airline is an essential service. No labor action can be undertaken while the board is deliberating.