Halifax Airport Commissionaires strike looms

HALIFAX, NS– Commissionaires at Halifax’s Stanfield International Airport voted 90% in support of a strike on Thursday, January 19, after the employer made a final offer and walked away from the table. The 175 members of Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) local 85100, employed by Commissionaires Nova Scotia (CNS) to provide security, ground transportation and parking services at the airport, could be on strike by mid-March.

“The employer remains unwilling to bargain on the issues that resulted in the strike mandate,” says Jeannie Baldwin, Regional Executive Vice-President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

Many commissionaires are veterans (military, police and RCMP), or members of their families. For many, this is their sole source of income and some earn as little as $11.53/hr.

CNS claims to provide gainful employment for veterans.  And yet many of these workers do not make a living wage,” says Baldwin.

CNS provides no medical or dental benefits to commissionaires.

Despite two federal court rulings, Commissionaires Nova Scotia continues to challenge that it must retroactively abide by the minimum standards of the Canada Labour Code.   Commissionaires working at Halifax Stanfield International Airportare legally entitled to federal overtime pay and statutory holidays, and yet were denied them until recently.  CNShas now advised PSAC that it has sought leave to appeal the unanimous Federal Court decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“This employer doing an end-run around a federal court decision by trying to force a settlement at the bargaining table that is significantly less than required by labour standards,” says Vice-President Baldwin.

Some CNS managers and staff at their Hollis St.headquarters receive overtime and statutory holidays consistent with the federal code, despite working under provincial legislation that offers weaker benefits.

“The rights of all federally regulated workers are being treated by this employer like a perk for management, “says Baldwin.

Recently workers received personal letters from CNSwarning them that their security contract could be canceled if the dispute is not resolved.  At least one competitive security services company has been given access to the workplace. The union is concerned this is a tactic intended to intimidate workers.   

“It’s hard to believe that the Airport Authority would allow any of its contractors to treat its employees in this way. Where else will it find 175 workers with the specialized skills required by an airport looking increasingly to global travel and gaining recognition by receiving national and international awards,” says Baldwin.

Other outstanding issues include compensation, eliminating outside interference in the management of the CNScontract with the Airport Authority, and disciplinary procedures.

Once the issue of essential services is resolved by the Canada Industrial Relations Board on March 13, the union must have given at least 72 hours notice of any strike action. The workers have been without a contract since January 2011.  The union is willing to return to the table at anytime. Until CNSagrees to negotiate, PSAC will continue to prepare for strike action.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada is a national union with over 180,000 members.

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Contact Lesley Thompson, Communications Officer, PSAC, 902-471-6201