British Columbia

Vancouver airport workers issue strike deadline, say flights may be affected

Flights at Vancouver International Airport may be disrupted this weekend according to a union which delivered a strike deadline Wednesday afternoon.

Swissport employees provide cleaning and baggage services, but YVR says contingency plans are in place

Swissport Canada workers say they have reached a labour agreement with their employer. (CBC)

Flights at Vancouver International Airport may be disrupted this weekend, according to a union that delivered a strike deadline Wednesday afternoon, but airport officials say contingency plans are in place. 

In a statement, Todd Haverstock, chairman of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), Transport District Lodge 140, said the union has set a deadline of 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26.

The workers are employees of Swissport International Ltd, which provides baggage and grooming services and manages the airport's baggage belt services. The employees service more than 20 airlines that use the airport, according to the union.

Altogether, the IAM represents nearly 4,000 airport workers total, but Haverstock added that in the event of a strike by Lodge 140, the rest of the airport's employees would be bound by law to go to work.

Swissport employs 855 workers, Haverstock said.

Haverstock said the union has been without a contract for more than a year. A tentative agreement was reached earlier this month, but on Monday the union voted against the agreement. The same day, the union voted 71 per cent in favour of a strike.

Airport hopeful for quick resolution

In a statement, YVR officials said contingency plans were being put in place, with airlines co-ordinating directly with Swissport, and that there is currently no impact to operations.

However, officials did not guarantee that no flights would be affected by any possible job action.

"YVR remains hopeful that the matter will be resolved quickly with an agreement that is favourable for both parties. YVR recommends passengers check the status of their flight with their airlines," the statement said.

Officials emphasized Swissport does not provide baggage handling for Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, Swift Air, Central Mountain Air, Air North and Aeromexico.

Rich Leach, Swissport's general manager for their YVR Operations, said they were in still discussions with the union, and were optimistic a "mutually beneficial outcome" could be reached. 

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