The union representing striking workers at Winnipeg Airport Authority (WAA) is concerned that the travelling public could risk further issues because a work stoppage at the airport is being artificially prolonged. Dave Clark, National President of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE) said today that they are worried because of both the use of non-trained replacement workers and a recent court injunction limiting the legal activities of striking workers.
“First, we had to face the use of replacement workers who do not know our jobs, our security protocols or our maintenance systems and schedules,” Clark said. “Now, the striking workers have been limited to parading in an area the size of a flowerbox so as not to cause any disappointment or distraction to the employer’s operations. That is the whole point of a strike.”
The use of non-trained contract workers to maintain the airport grounds and facilities and replace the nearly 150 employees including duty managers, administrative workers, various tradespersons, IT workers, airfield maintenance, and labourers is permitted under federal legislation. But that should be little comfort for the travelling public, said UCTE’s Clark. “The airport claims that they need the replacement workers and the restrictions on picketing for possible “security and safety regulations mandated by law”. What about poorly trained staff handling and maintaining sensitive equipment at the airport? That is a real and not imaginary safety and security concern.”
Similarly, the injunction on picketing in certain areas of WAA like the parkade seems a bit of a stretch to striking workers. They note that a major strike by 700 baggage handlers at Pearson International Airport has not brought any sanctions to those workers or any restrictions on their legal picketing rights or rights to free speech. “Are we really to believe that WAA has higher security risks than Pearson Airport?”, asked Clark.
“Of course the workers at the Winnipeg Airport will obey the orders issued by this injunction, but we still hold the right to speak out about their treatment by their employer and the legal system,” said Marianne Hladun, PSAC Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President. “In our view, the actions by both have tilted the bargaining process in the Airport Authority’s favour and are delaying the eventual settlement of this dispute.” The union is speaking out now in the hopes of not just shortening this strike but to ensure that the travelling public remains safe and secure in their travels to and from Winnipeg Airport.