Snowy weather and striking workers could mean airport delays
Authority says it can manage with reduced staff as strike nears end of third month
The arrival of wintry weather could put a new complexion on a long-running strike at St. John's International Airport, with workers warning travellers to expect more delays.
About 85 workers — including those who clear the runways, among other duties such as maintenance and emergency services — have been off the job since Sept. 11 in a dispute focused on wages and security.
The airport authority has an agreement in place for essential workers, but workers say there will be fewer resources available during each snowfall.
Chris Bussey, a negotiator for the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, said as many as 18 employees could head out to clear the runways, but the number will be just six as long as the strike remains unsettled.
"I would expect when we get into snowfall, especially if it happens in December, that there will be delays," Bussey told CBC News.
"Normally with snowfalls around Christmas time, it creates quite a bit of havoc around the airport. So I would expect the same type of thing would happen, probably even a little worse, with the labour dispute ongoing," he said.
Bussey said travellers will need to recognize there are limits on how much the essential-service workers can accomplish on their own.
"The six operators can function to keep the runways safe for planes to land and takeoff, but it's going to be limited with the ramps and taxiways," said Bussey.
The airport authority said it can operate with 70 per cent of its normal staff complement, and will call in extra staff if needed during stormy weather.
The authority said there are no talks planned, and that the only communication has been through a mediator and negotiators.
The authority said at the start of the strike that it cannot afford union pay demands that would amount to 58 per cent over four years. The union has been seeking wage parity with comparable airports.
The authority wants to drop some contract language, such as discontinuing a no-layoff clause — which current employees enjoy — for new hires. The union regards such a demand as a concession.