Winnipeg Airports Authority accuses striking workers of intimidation, obstructing traffic
Airports authority asks court for amendments to injunction that limits activities of striking employees
As a strike by 150 airport employees entered its seventh week, the Winnipeg Airports Authority returned to court Wednesday and accused striking employees of intimidating staff and patrons, obstructing traffic to the airport and wielding cameras "like weapons."
The airports authority is asking Justice Herbert Rempel to beef up and amend an interim court injunction issued Aug. 4 that limits the activities of striking employees.
Duty managers, administrative workers, various tradespeople, IT workers, airfield maintenance personnel and labourers at the airport went on strike July 24 and set up a picket line at the airport.
"All of this conduct is new, it's egregious, it's threatening," Winnipeg Airports Authority lawyer Rod Roy told Rempel.
Roy alleged striking employees have obstructed traffic at Wellington Avenue and Route 90, a major route to the airport, putting motorists at risk. Police have been unresponsive, which leaves only the courts to resolve the issue, Roy argued.
"God forbid that something should happen at the intersection" and someone gets hurt, Roy said.
No evidence police haven't acted on complaints: PSAC lawyer
Rempel questioned whether he has authority to restrict activities on a public roadway well off the airport authority's property.
"If something bad is happening, isn't that on the police?" Rempel said. "As I see it, these would be offences under the Highway Traffic Act. The police don't have discretion when and when not to enforce the law."
Roy said it doesn't matter whether the traffic obstruction occurs "10 feet, 100 feet or 1,000 metres away" from airport property — the goal is the same, and is "to inconvenience and create a nuisance for the WAA."
The court has been provided no evidence motorists complained to police about the road obstruction and nothing was done, said John Harvie, lawyer for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union representing the striking workers.
"Where is that evidence?" Harvie said. "It's not here."
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Roy alleged striking workers have actively harassed employees who have chosen to return to work.
"They are being pilloried, vilified and, indeed, threatened implicitly or explicitly by having their personal information and images put on social media, they are being accosted in grocery stores," Roy said. "Who is going to protect them if not the airport and the court?"
Roy also accused striking workers of aggressively filming employees and others as they entered the airport.
"They are filming as a weapon … right in their face, within a few feet, circling them," Roy said. "It has nothing to do with monitoring the picket line."
Harvie said there is no need to "parse" what kind of filming is and isn't allowed, arguing that question can be adequately addressed by the existing injunction.
Rempel will deliver his decision on the amendment motion Thursday afternoon.
Transport Canada is "monitoring the strike situation" and working with the WAA "to verify that airport operations continue to meet aviation safety and security regulations," a spokesperson said in an email to CBC.
"Transport Canada has not taken enforcement action at the Winnipeg International Airport during the strike period," the spokesperson said.