Vancouver airport workers issue 72-hour strike notice; warn of long weekend delays

VANCOUVER – Travellers flying to or from Vancouver this weekend may face significant delays or even cancellations if 300 unionized airport workers go on strike this Friday.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada issued a 72-hour strike notice Tuesday morning, warning the public to contact the airport or airlines and plan accordingly in the event of job action.

“We felt we had no choice,” union representative Bob Jackson said in a news release.

The Vancouver Airport Authority “is demanding concessions but at the same time … budgeting millions of dollars per year on capital projects. Our members find this unacceptable.”

The union said the airport has tabled language that weakens apprenticeship provisions in the collective agreement, and wants to create a two-tier wage system by creating a new class of “seasonal” workers.

The notice comes a couple weeks after 83 per cent of the union’s members voted in favour of a strike. The workers are members of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, a division of the public service alliance, and provide services in emergency response, customer care, passenger loading, runway maintenance and lighting, general maintenance and administration.

Union spokesman Dave Clark said the main issues are what the union considers concessions that the airport wants in a new contract, particularly around wages for trades people and procedures for contracting out work. The union also wants new provisions to allow some workers to extend their daily hours in order to work four days a week instead of five.

The airport stressed after the strike vote the tactic is a routine step in labour negotiations. A spokesman for the airport was unavailable for immediate comment.

But in Clark’s assessment, the union and the airport are far apart.

“The employer is asking for what we feel are major rollbacks, and until they take those off the table … these members are not going to accept it,” he said earlier this month.

“Fundamentally, we’re on opposite sites.”

Clark warned that strikes at other airports, such as in St. John’s, N.L., and Fredericton, caused flight cancellations and delays.

Negotiations with a federal mediator are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.