bc-081222-vancouver-airport-delays-2

Last December, an estimated 3,000 people were stranded overnight at Vancouver International Airport after a snowstorm forced the closure of all but one runway. This year, a strike threatens to disrupt Christmas travel. ((Meera Bains/ CBC))

Hundreds of unionized workers at Vancouver International Airport have voted 94 per cent in favour of strike action, just in time to use the busy holiday season to gain some leverage during contract talks.

It is not yet clear how a potential strike might affect the thousands of travellers expected to arrive at the airport for the 2010 Winter Olympics being held in Vancouver from Feb. 12 to 28.

The 300 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers are employed by Swissport and provide ground handling and baggage services for Westjet and Continental Airlines.

According to union spokesman Todd Haverstock, contract talks have hit an impasse and union job action could severely disrupt the operations of both airlines over the Christmas season.

He said a strike could affect the entire airport because Swissport employees maintain all of the airport's baggage-sorting equipment.

Haverstock said Swissport's final offer contained no wage increase for workers with less than two years of service, and just one per cent annually for longer-term employees, something he said is unacceptable when the average full-time wage is $11.30 per hour.

Last December, just days before Christmas, an estimated 3,000 people were stranded overnight at Vancouver International Airport after a snowstorm forced the closure of all but one runway.