Most passenger flights at St. John's airport cancelled amid labour dispute
Most firefighters went on leave this week, citing a toxic workplace
The St. John's International Airport Authority has confirmed it's limiting operations due to a staffing issue at its fire hall — preventing most passenger flights from landing or taking off.
In a media release issued Tuesday, the St. John's International Airport Authority said flights will be limited to cargo flights, Medevacs and aircraft with fewer than 20 seats, effective 8 p.m. Tuesday, until staffing levels change.
In a statement from PAL Airlines, officials say they are monitoring the situation and are ready to work with travellers to make alternate arrangements.
A spokesperson for Air Canada says service into the airport will be temporarily suspended as a result of the staffing issue, including eight flights that were cancelled on Tuesday night. Impacted travellers will be contacted.
CBC News has also contacted Westjet for comment.
Some flights at the airport were cancelled Monday after six of the nine employed firefighters went on leave due to concerns over what they call a toxic workplace, and the airport's fire hall has inadequate staffing levels to allow all flights, said a spokesperson for the authority.
Chris Bussey, the regional vice-president of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, told CBC News workers have shared concerns of bullying, harassment and health and safety issues at the airport.
"It's very unfortunate that it has come to this," said Bussey after the announcement. "I think it's unfortunate that our members' health and safety got ignored and their concerns got pushed away to the point that it affected their psychological health."
Bussey said he spoke with airport authority management Tuesday and asked for a federal mediator to be involved in negotiations. He said it's a difficult situation for the firefighters to be in, but the safety and well-being of workers is their top priority.
"I'm not sure that the airport authority understands the magnitude and the seriousness of this on our members," he said. "I'm hoping that this will be the beginning to resolve the issues, but I'm not holding out a lot of optimism."
Lisa Bragg, the airport authority's director of business development and marketing, told CBC News on Monday that flights are being affected but didn't address claims made by the union. The airport authority declined to do an interview with CBC News.
The release says the airport authority is working with Transport Canada to resolve the problem.
St. John's South-Mount Pearl MP Seamus O'Regan said his office is also involved in the matter, tweeting the immediate goal is to "minimize disruption and get the airport completely and safely up and running."
The current situation at St John’s Airport is unsustainable. <br><br>Senior officials from my department are now involved.<br><br>Immediate goal: minimize disruption and get the airport completely and safely up and running. <br><br>Long-term goal: resolution of this dispute. <a href="https://t.co/gQf24csyqt">https://t.co/gQf24csyqt</a>—@SeamusORegan