About 800 security screeners at Atlantic Canadian airports are voting over the next few days on potential strike action over concessions they say their their employer has demanded at the bargaining table.
Negotiations broke down late Wednesday between the members of the United Steelworkers (USW) and multinational security company Securitas.
The vote is to give the union negotiating committee the mandate to call a strike. Results of the strike mandate vote are expected by the end of next week.
Other airport workers, members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada/Union of Candadian Transportation Employees (PSAC/TCTE), have been without a contract since 2009 and on strike since Sept 11.
"We're in this position because, rather than negotiate a fair deal, Securitas threw a final offer at our members that attacks their modest working and living standards," said Marty Warren, assistant to Wayne Fraser, USW director for Atlantic Canada and Ontario.
"This is the world's largest security company, which is being paid $480 million by our federal government, and they're demanding concessions from workers who in many cases are struggling to get by," Warren said.
The collective agreement between the airport screeners and Securitas expires Oct. 31.
"There is time to avert a labour dispute, if Securitas is committed to negotiating a fair deal that recognizes the important and stressful work done by airport security screeners," Warren said.
USW negotiator Boyd Bussey said ontract talks broke down Wednesday after Securitas presented a 'take-it-or-leave-it' offer.
"They want to gut our collective agreement so they can do more work with fewer people, and increase the stress and workload that security screeners face," Bussey said. The company also rejected any improvements in benefits and pensions, he said.
Securitas recently received a $481-million contract from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), a federal government agency , to provide screening services at airports in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
"Passengers also pay significant fees for security screening and they have a right to expect improvements, not reductions, in services," Bussey said.
"So where's all the money going? The workers are not getting it, so what is Securitas doing with it? What are CATSA and the federal government doing with it?" he questioned.