© Keith Gosse/The Telegram
St. John's airport.
Airport workers hit the picket line at 5 a.m. today, but tropical storm Leslie issued a temporary injunction to take it down.
The 85 members of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees local 90916, part of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, went on strike this morning in front of the St. John’s airport, with negotiations having broken down with the airport authority. Workers have been without an agreement since 2009 and haven’t had a wage increase in four years, and this morning the union issued a press release blaming the authority for refusing to back down on its demands for concessions. Workers set up the picket line at the earliest possible time allowed for under the strike notice issued Friday evening, but the storm forced picketers to seek shelter. A union spokeswoman said the picket will be reevaluated at noon today and will go back up if weather permits.
“Our members know that recruitment and retention is already an issue at the airport,” said union regional vice-president Wayne Fagan, according to the press release. “These negotiations were an opportunity to deal with that. It’s unfortunate the employer did not rise to the occasion.”
The airport authority, in its own press release, blamed what it called the union’s “strike first and negotiate later” approach, and for the first released details of the union’s latest demand: A 58 per cent increase in salaries over four years, with a 34 per cent increase in the first year and 5.75 per cent increases in the following three years. “The airport authority has also tabled important issues that the union refused to discuss prior to striking. This was despite the Airport Authority’s best efforts to engage the union during the 38 days of bargaining,” reads the press release.
Under a maintenance of activities agreement the authority has with the union, the workers — who provide operational and maintenance services, including runway clearing, building upkeep and emergency services — will provide enough employees to meet all Transport Canada regulations for safety and security, but airport management is also warning passengers to allow extra time to arrive at the airport. Travellers within Canada should plan to be at the airport two hours ahead of flights, and those travelling outside the country should plan to be there two and a half hours ahead of their flights.
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