Winnipeg Airports Authority wins court injunction against striking workers
Workers have been in negotiations since last October and without a contract since June 30, 2016
The Winnipeg Airports Authority has won an interim court injunction limiting where and how striking union workers can picket at Richardson International Airport and beyond.
At 3 a.m. on July 24, 150 airport employees — duty managers, administrative workers, various tradespeople, IT workers, airfield maintenance personnel and labourers — went on strike and set up a picket line at the airport.
The WAA sought an injunction asking for court orders on a range of activities, including limiting picketers to certain areas of the property and halting picketing in the airport parkade.
The WAA also asked for a prohibition against "harassing and intimidating behaviours" such as employees being followed either at work, or to and from work and home or picketing at employees' homes.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Herbert Rempel largely gave the WAA the relief it was seeking with a few exceptions, citing an airport's exceptional need for security.
"This is a case where placing a reasonable limit on the right of PSAC (Public Service Alliance of Canada) members to freely express their opinions is necessary," Rempel said.
"The special environment of an international airport makes it more than just a workplace because a whole host of security and safety regulations mandated by law are at play and they cannot be interfered with given the potential for catastrophic consequences,"
Rempel, however, refused to bar picketers from videotaping people coming and going from the airport and called a ban on strike activity near homes of employees "overly broad and too restrictive on the right of freedom of expression."
"In my view a radius of 200 meters around a home creates an adequate buffer to protect WAA employees, directors and staff and any contractors doing business with the WAA from feeling intimidated, harassed or threatened in their own homes," Rempel said in his decision.
'Our members have been respectful': PSAC
In a statement to CBC News, PSAC's reaction to the court's interim ruling was mixed.
"Our members have been respectful on the picket line as WAA CEO Barry Rempel has acknowledged in the media," regional executive vice president Marianne Hladun said.
"We had hoped for a broader confirmation of our members' Charter-protected rights and freedoms but we respect the court's decision. Our members are still fully committed to stopping contracting out of their jobs and will continue our variety of strike actions within the parameters of the injunction," she said.
The workers, who are also represented by the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, have been in negotiations since last October and without a contract since June 30, 2016.
The strike followed an unsuccessful week at the bargaining table with the assistance of a federally-appointed mediator.