Workers at St. John’s International Airport have served airport management with 72 hours’ strike notice.
Members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s Union of Canadian Transportation Employees Local 90916 voted in favour of strike action at a meeting Thursday night, with formal strike notice given Friday evening, although negotiations are continuing through the weekend.
Union regional vice-president Wayne Fagan had said whether they serve strike notice to the airport authority will depend on how negotiations go.
“If it’s going smoothly, then we don’t need to put in a strike notice. And if not, then we will,” he said Friday afternoon, before strike notice was given, noting that the union has been without a collective agreement since 2009.
Workers haven’t seen a wage increase for four years, he said. “The core issue is to bring us up to a market standard. And what that market is, well it’s the airport sector market, and it’s also the local market. And our people are behind.”
Marie Manning, spokeswoman for the airport authority, said airport operations would be only minimally disrupted in the event of a strike.
“We do have a maintenance of operations agreement in place with the union,” she said, “Because we’re considered an essential service, we will have minimal staff available to provide those essential services, in addition to the airport authority’s management team that will be focused on airport operations as well. Our intention is to keep operations as close to normal as possible, and certainly there will be enough personnel available to meet all Transport Canada regulations for safety and security.”
Fagan acknowledged the union’s requirement to provide essential services puts it in a tougher bargaining position, but dismissed management’s suggestion that it would be business as usual at the airport during a strike.
“We have to provide essential services. Will it be business as usual at the airport? I don’t think so,” he said, pointing to an airport strike in 2003 that lasted nearly three months, delaying flights and having other indirect effects. “We had conventions that were cancelled. The nurses’ union were going to have a convention in St. John’s. They cancelled it then because they weren’t going to go across picket lines. It’s all the whole spinoff effect of that, the indirect impact of whatever happens in the picket line.”
That picket line is anticipated to be on the access road to the terminal building, airport officials said Friday evening, and advised that if a strike occurs, passengers should allow extra time to get to the airport for flights.