At a news conference Friday at St. John’s International Airport, airport CEO Keith Collins called for striking PSAC workers to return to the bargaining table on Tuesday and talk until a settlement is reached. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
The St. John’s International Airport Authority has a message for its striking workers: see you Tuesday.
Keith Collins, president and CEO of the authority, publicly called on striking Public Service Alliance of Canada workers Friday afternoon to return to the bargaining table.
“The airport authority has attempted to engage PSAC in negotiations to end the strike, but to date without success,” said Collins at a hastily called news conference Friday afternoon. Collins pointed out management’s most recent offer was presented more than three weeks ago, one that Collins said addressed all outstanding issues. “To date, the authority has received no response from the union.”
Collins said the authority “enthusiastically” supports the resolution passed by council earlier this week urging a return to the bargaining table.
“On the basis of all of this, the authority is inviting the union’s chief negotiator and bargaining team as well as the federal mediator to resume negotiations this coming Tuesday, Dec. 18, here in St. John’s. We’ll start on Tuesday and we’d expect to negotiate as long as it takes to settle the strike.” Collins said the authority has booked a hotel room in which to host the negotiations.
The authority’s news conference comes a day after sympathetic unions rallied with the striking workers of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees Local 90916, part of PSAC, but Collins said that hasn’t increased pressure on the authority to settle the strike.
“There’s no added pressure. Rallies are rallies. They really don’t help to settle strikes,” he said. “But we did hear a number of public statements from the union that they were interested in coming back to the bargaining table, comments that they believed the parties could resolve this strike very quickly and we agree. That, coupled with Monday’s resolution at city hall, I think, has laid out the basis for a return to the table.”
The airport is on the cusp of its busiest week — the days before Christmas — and is facing snowier weather as winter arrives, but the authority’s incentive in pushing for a settlement is simply to get its employees back to work.
“We said from the outset that this strike should never have happened in the first place,” said Collins. “There was no need for it and we’ve tried throughout the strike to engage PSAC in negotiations. Our incentive is that the strike needs to end and we have an obligation to our employees to negotiate with them a collective agreement that respects their expectations and their aspirations as well as the business needs of the airport authority, to strike that right balance.”
The union wants wage parity with employees doing similar work at Halifax’s airport, but Collins said that airport is larger and not a relevant comparison.
Chris Bussey, spokesman for the union’s negotiating committee, said late Friday the negotiating team would meet to discuss whether to return to the table. “We’re waiting to hear from them if they’re coming to the table without preconditions. We’re looking for assurances in that regard,” he said. “We’re looking forward to negotiating a settlement to the strike.”
About 85 maintenance workers have been on strike since Sept. 11.