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Job Action in Flight

Airport Labour-Actions Continue

by Geordie Gwalgen Dent

Job Action in Flight
Job Action in Flight

With strikes, threats of back to work legislation, obscure labour board tactics and work-to-rule campaigns, airports have become ground zero for labour actions in the past month.

Two unions, CUPE representing Air Canada staff and Canadian Airport Workers Union representing security staff, have been trying to assert their bargaining rights amid a fast-chilling climate of labour-industrial relations.

Last week staff for the Canadian Airport Workers Union, an independent union formed in 2007 afer an acrimonious split with the Teamsters Union, began a work-to rule campaign in opposition to a new scheduling shift implemented by security-giant, Garda.  Garda is one of four main security companies in Canada and is privately contracted to operate airport security at Toronto's Pearson Airport. (One of the four, Contemporary Security Canada, which mysteriously sprung up before it was awarded lucrative Olympics and G8/20 contracts by the RCMP has recently been prosecuted by the Ontario Provincial Police.)

According to the Toronto Star, "At issue is a move by Garda to implement shift bidding, a system often used in hospitals in which workers bid on how much of a premium they will accept to work less desirable shifts, and the company picks the lowest bid."

The result, was, naturally, chaos. 

The Toronto Media Co-op was on hand at Pearson Airport to witness the effect.  Line-ups at the airport (see above) stretched to the thousands for both domestic and international flights.  Delays were hours-long.  Several fights broke out amongst passengers who were getting contradictory information (or no information at all) about where to line-up.  Not understanding that the cause of the delay was labour action from CATSA (airport security) staff, many were berating or asking for help from airline staff. 

An Air Canada employee told the Toronto Media Co-op, "You think the GTAA (Greater Toronto Airport Authority, the private company responsible for managing the airport) would be here to help with the line-ups...but where are they?"

When asked about the reaction from airport users, a CATSA employee had this to offer, "It's been mixed.  I just wish it didn't have to come to this."

Four days later, during another work-to-rule campaign, Garda pulled over 70 staff from their positions and suspended them.  There are 1600 security staff at Pearson Airport.

Meanwhile, Air Canada staff have rejected a second offer from the airline and are poised to strike, however machinations from the Federal Labour Minister have prevented them from doing so.  Minister Lisa Raitt, in a blatant misuse of the Industrial Relations Board had asked the Board to determine whether or not employees from only Air Canada could be deemed an "essential service" - jeopardizing the health and safety of the nation. 

The request for review means that the union can not go on strike until the matter is settled.  The window of opportunity for the union to take advantage of the strike may close by then as the government will have returned from recess at that point and would be able to enact back to work legislation against Air Canada employees.  Raitt has threatened back to work legislation against Air Canada employees already since the Conservative gained a majority in Parliament and legislated postal workers back to work earlier this year.

Air Canada staff allowed major concessions in previous contract negotiations when the airline was close to bankruptcy.  Since the airline is currently turning a profit, they were hoping to recoup some of their previous concessions, however the airline is instead trying to undercut the costs for new hires through a discount airline while negotiations over pensions and other work issues have not been resolved.

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594 words


The issue for Garda Screeners

It is my understanding from sources familiar with the matter that the issue for the Garda screeners is that Garda is trying to force the majority of the full time officers to go to part time as well as accepting split shifts. Their union has been strangely silent on that matter, leaving Garda press releases as the only source of information and giving the public the erroneous view that the screening officers are acting like spoiled prima donnas. Also it has not yet come to light that Garda has purchased the contracts in the prairie region from Aerogaurd and now holds two of the four airport regions in Canada. This goes against CATSA's intention of splitting up the contracts across the four regions amongst four different contractors. It seems now Garda is "feeling it's oats" and using it's position of power to exploit it's workers in order to fuel it's rapid growth. Garda has always had a very adversarial stance with regards to labour so this comes as no surprise.


if i even spoke the word union in my workplace i would be at the top of the list to be fired. do you think you are better than me!?

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