Newfoundland and LabradorNewfoundland and Labrador news
Updated: Mon, 04 Mar 2013 18:21:50 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Airport avoids blaming union for sabotage



Airport avoids blaming union for sabotage

The president and CEO of the St. John's International Airport Authority says striking union workers have no genuine interest in reaching a compromise.

“We’ve held several discussions with senior PSAC leaders over the past couple of weeks,” Keith Collins said Monday.

“Unfortunately, this did not translate into any improvement in the inflexibility in the union’s bargaining team that appears to have its own agenda — an agenda that includes extending the strike and trying to force the authority to accept unreasonable and unrealistic demands.”

Collins cited the union’s proposed wage increase.

“The union continues to demand a 56 per cent wage increase over a four-year term, with 34 per cent of that in the first year retroactive to 2009,” Collins said.

“Obviously, this wage demand is unreasonable and completely out of step with wage levels at other Atlantic Canada airports and with employers throughout our province.”

According to Collins, such a pay raise would put local workers into the second highest paid spot in Atlantic Canada - second to Halifax, which has an airport three times the size of St. John's.

Strike not cause of problems

The airport has been experiencing a variety of issues throughout the strike, including malfunctioning washrooms. But management does not cite the strike as the reason for all the problems.

“It’s not a function of poor maintenance during strike, it’s a function of sabotage, and there’s been a number of examples of that,” Collins said.

He said wads of paper towel have been hauled from toilets, and stall doors have been taken off their hinges, with the hinges now missing.

“We have no idea who’s doing it, and of course you can’t have surveillance cameras in the washrooms, but it is happening, and as it happens we deal with it,” he said.

Collins said management would be prepared to go back to the bargaining table if the union’s approach changes.

Union blames airport

Chris Bussey, a spokesperson for the striking Public Service Alliance of Canada workers, said talks broke down last week because the management continues to jeopardize job security.

"The employer made it quite clear that they want to contract-out our work and they want to affect our job security," he said.

"They want the right to lay off, I guess, to contract-out that work."

Bussey said the infrastructure at the airport is beginning to deteriorate, despite an essential services agreement.

"I understand there are a lot of runway lights that are down, the low visibility runway lighting system that would allow planes to land when the ceiling is lower in low [visual] conditions is down," he said.

"One of the loading bridges has been gone for quite some time — a lot of their equipment is down due to lack of maintenance."

Bussey said the authority is more focused on its agenda than the infrastructure problems at the airport.

The workers have been on strike for almost six months, since Sept. 11, 2012.

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