Workers at the Timmins airport are willing to go on strike for a fair deal, according to the Canadian Transportation Employees Union.
Regional vice president for Ontario Martin Mika said a vote yesterday, where its 19 members at the Victor M. Airport voted in favour of strike action, is sending a “very, very clear message to the City of Timmins that our members mean business.”
Mika said the union will give 72 hours notice before walking off the job.
If that happens, Timmins CAO Dave Landers said the airport would be open.
“The airport will absolutely remain open and airport operations will continue. In the event that the members of this local walk off the job and start a strike, we’ll continue to provide reliable, safe airport operations. There will be no changes to flight schedules, the airport itself will remain open,” said Landers.
Staff at the airport has been without a contract for about two years.
According to the union, the deal on table is for a 1.5 per cent pay increase, however the cutbacks to shift premiums and insulated work boots not being covered by the employer are more than that.
“We did tell our employer from day one that we were not here to concession bargain, but rather to bargain a fair collective agreement. The City of Timmins was offering a small wage increase, but really cutting back on what we felt were really important monetary benefits,” said Mika. “These cuts far outweigh the increases that were being offered in our opinion, and that our members know how to do what we like to call basic math and that’s their rejecting the shady deal and that’s why we’re willing to go on strike.”
According to Landers, the city tried to open negotiations in 2016 before the collective agreement expired.
“It’s been a longer than usual collective bargaining process, but I don’t think at this point — it doesn’t appear to me that we’re at a bargaining impasse with the local. They have gone to their members to get a mandate to strike if necessary and that’s part of the process,” he said.
In its update on the strike action, the union said workers are set to strike starting March 1.
“I want to make it perfectly clear that we’re not here to inconvenience anyone and if we were going to consider strike action, that we will give 72 hours notice before a strike is called. Will something happen tomorrow? I can most definitely say no. Will something happen next week? And my answer to that is maybe. Our hope is that the City of Timmins, specifically the mayor, will send the negotiators back to the table with a new mandate and one that is going to recognize the importance of the work that our members do,” Mika said.
For Landers, he said “there’s no reason not to be back at the table. I am learning about this through social media, their strike mandate and this as well. So I would assume that there’s some formal communication, that’s typically what happens between respectful bargaining partners and then we’ll move forward from there.”
Should the workers take the strike action, Landers said the city has internal resources to use to maintain the airport. Bringing in external support for priority work is also an option.
“This is a maintenance local, and so to make sure that the runway maintenance is safely and effectively done, we could do that with resources that we’ve already organized,” he said.
Mika said the union understands strikes are disruptive.
“Strikes are very, very tough on our communities, our members and their families. We’d love nothing more than to come back to the table and negotiate a fair deal as quickly as possible,” he said. “The ball is now in the employer’s court. We’re hoping that they’re going to do the right thing and give us a call.”