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Porter Loses Injunction, Goes Straight to a Lawsuit

Airline is suing Union for $4 million

by Megan Kinch

The injunction sought to prohibit people from demonstrating in Little Norway park, just next to the ferry docks.
The injunction sought to prohibit people from demonstrating in Little Norway park, just next to the ferry docks.
This "porter raccoon on strike" meme is characteristic of the strike supporters' use of social media during the strike
This "porter raccoon on strike" meme is characteristic of the strike supporters' use of social media during the strike
Another example of quick meme generation by strike supporters.
Another example of quick meme generation by strike supporters.
Porter is also applying to expand the airport, actions taken against workers might also have the effect of chilling community dissent regarding the airport expansion.
Porter is also applying to expand the airport, actions taken against workers might also have the effect of chilling community dissent regarding the airport expansion.

Porter Airlines is playing hardball. Rather than negotiate with their striking refueling workers, they are choosing to use any legal means available to avoid dealing with them. Yesterday, Porter and the Toronto Port Authority partially lost a court injunction which had sought to prohibit leafletting and noise even in a public park. That very afternoon, they announced with a civil lawsuit of $4 million against the union, whose bargaining unit at the Porter airport represents only 22 employees.

The Media Coop spoke with Glenn Wheeler of COPE (Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union), the union which represents the fuel workers. "Earlier we had two people charged with trespassing and actually handcuffed and arrested for leafletting in front of the terminal door, which is quite outrageous. That won't be happening any more because of the court order, as the judge said that you can leaflet in the building."
 
Wheeler was surprised Porter even tried to get such a restrictive injunction: "We were surprised they took the position that they did because we have a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada saying that an airport, for the purposes of union messages, is a public place." 
 
A draft of the injunction referred to several named parties, such as the union, its officials and also "persons presently unidentified". According to COPE, the injunction would have severely limited demonstrations in Little Norway Park, a public park near the ferry docks.
 
Wheeler said: that the temporary order "imposed some restrictions - but not the restrictions that the Toronto Port Authority and Porter were seeking and the union feels very good about the result because it means that our constitutional rights were preserved and we can carry on our lawful picketing activities." After the court decision, Porter went public yesterday afternoon about a $4 million dollar libel lawsuit against the union, specifically over twitter use from the union's @PorterStrike account.
 
Its no coincidence that the airline has targeted social media; Twitter, Facebook and phone campaigns against Porter have been widespread and effective, and have included parodies of Porter advertisements. 
 
Even city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has been tweeting on the strike, writing yesterday "I'm a Porter client & always pay my own way. Not impressed with them lately: tax arrears, labour disputes, jets & now robo-polls. #smartenup". 
 
Carrie Sharpe, who has been helping coordinate support for the workers, spoke to the Media Coop about the attempted injunction. "What's scary is that it was even on the table. This is an attempt to shut down dissent. Porter is trying to discourage dissent at a time when they have an application to have jets fly out of the airport and to fill in some of the lake. This injunction process has already had a chilling effect on mobilization, there will be people afraid now to protest island expansion. The very ambiguity of the injunctions is in itself a weapon. They are doing all this in order to shut down protests over use of public assets for profit."
 
The highest paid fueler at Porter earns $16 an hour. Workers start off at $12/hr (or $14 with a DZ license). Health and safety, including the procurement of basic equipment like safety vests, has also been a key union demand.
 
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Topics: Labour

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Megan Kinch (Megan Kinch)
Toronto Ontario
Member since December 2009

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is a writer and editor with the Toronto Media Co-op.

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