Union says 'strong-arm tactics' won't discourage striking workers at Winnipeg airport
Workers have been without a contract since June 30, 2016
Bright signs, waving flags and loud chants welcomed people to Winnipeg on Wellington Avenue just before the entrance to the Richardson International Airport over the weekend after a court injunction limited where and how union workers can picket.
"All of our members are out on the street, within the boundaries of the court injunction, lining the streets, waving to people as they come in, but letting people know that there is a labour dispute at the Winnipeg airport," said Marianne Hladun, the regional vice-president of Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) for the prairie region.
- Winnipeg Airports Authority wins court injunction against striking workers
- Airports authority seeks injunction against employees accused of picketing at private homes
About 150 airport employees, including duty managers, administrative workers, tradespeople, IT workers, airfield maintenance personnel and labourers, went on strike on July 24.
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. Hladun said the main issue was around the use of contract workers.
Two days after the strike began, the Winnipeg Airport Authority filed a statement of claim seeking 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 and employees being followed either at work, or to and from work and home, or picketing at employees' homes.
On Friday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Herbert Rempel ruled in favour of some of the WAA requests, including restricting where picketing could take place at the airport, citing the special environment of an international airport and the host of security and safety regulations at play.
However, Rempel refused to bar picketers from videotaping people and called a ban on strike activity near homes of employees "overly broad and too restrictive on the right of freedom of expression."
Hladun said striking employees were disappointed by the allegations made in the statement of claim, which she says were largely refuted in court.
"Our members have been respectful from day one. More often than not you found our picketers on the sidewalk helping people with their luggage, helping people," she said.
"We have never impeded passengers into the airport."
She said the "strong-arm tactics" won't discourage the strikers, who just want to get back to the table.
"We will honour the injunction as it's presented, but we will utilize other strategies because we are in this for the long haul and our members are committed that they will stay out here until contracting out is off the table," she said.
The airports authority maintains it doesn't contract out union work, stating it has actually increased unionized positions since the new terminal opened in 2011.