British Columbia

Strike averted at Vancouver airport

A looming strike by security workers at Vancouver International Airport was called off Tuesday morning just hours before their union had planned to set up picket lines.

A looming strike by security workers at Vancouver International Airport was called off Tuesday morning just hours before their union had planned to set up picket lines.

The 250members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union were poised to go on strike at 9 a.m. PT

However, the twosides worked out a deal early Tuesday to refer the dispute to mediation.

Union leader Mike Clegg said officials with Securiguard Services, the private contractor that employs the workers, suggested third-party involvement after talks broke off late Monday.

Veteran mediator Vince Ready has been appointed to guide the discussions. If the mediation fails, the dispute will go to bindingarbitration.

The airport had said it had contingency plans in place thatwould allow it to continue operating in the event of a strike.

The security staff patrol the airport perimeter, main terminal building and restricted access areas of the building, but do not screen passengers or check luggage.

Last week, the union issued a 72-hour strike notice, saying workers responsible for security — excluding those who screen passengers prior to boarding planes — were preparing to take job action as early as Tuesday.

About 90 per cent of all workers at the airport are unionized. The union said it believed the other unionized workers would respect a picket line and the job action would have disrupted flights.

The Securiguard employees have been trying for months to negotiate their first collective agreement following a yearlong effort for union certification.

They voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action two weeks ago when negotiations bogged down over working conditions, hours of work, breaks and scheduling.

Clegg says his members, who have had heavier workloads since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington nearly five years ago, deserve a better deal.

"These men and women protect the skies, protect the airport, are the eyes and ears for the police, the intelligence services out there, and they keep the bad guys out of the places they shouldn't be," he said.

With files from the Canadian Press

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