National News

Montreal aircraft refuellers sit down with mediators as strike hits third day

By The Canadian Press

Published 11:55 PST, Thu January 2, 2020

Last Updated: 11:55 PST, Thu January 2, 2020

The union representing employees who refuel the planes at two Montreal airports met with mediators Thursday as their strike dragged into its third day.

Representatives sat down with mediators at 10 a.m., according to a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Swissport Canada tells The Canadian Press it is ready to negotiate, but that mediators have asked it to stay on standby.

"The union is being asked to go back and do its homework, basically," the company said.

Despite several flight delays posted on the Trudeau airport departures board Thursday afternoon, "there are no issues nor delays related to the Swissport strike," the Montreal airport authority said in an email. "Operations are ongoing normally."

Swissport's local managers and staff from across the country are currently filling the roles of the striking workers.

Roughly 100 employees of Swissport Canada, the only supplier of fuel for airlines operating out of Montreal's cargo airfield in Mirabel and the city's main airport, Montreal-Trudeau International, walked off the job Tuesday, several days after they voted to reject a tentative contract deal.

Salaries and work-life balance are the main points of contention between Swissport and its Montreal-area workers, who have been without a contract since August.

The union also cited staff turnover in a tweet Thursday, stating that "low pay and lack of training...costs the company money and productivity."

"Right now we don’t want a war on the radio waves, as it were. We just want to let people know what the issues are," said union spokesman Frank Saptel.

Swissport employees rejected a tentative contract deal in a 90 per cent vote last Friday.

Swissport complained to the Canada Industrial Relations Board on Tuesday, saying the union was negotiating in bad faith and asking the board to suspend the strike. The board ruled the union could maintain its strike, but ordered their union immediately back to the negotiating table.

According to the labour board ruling, the tentative deal included a provision that the union would recommend its members vote in favour of it.

The board said the union didn't tell Swissport about the vote result. Instead, the union gave the company a 72-hour strike notice before making new demands "that were estimated to be more than double what was in the tentative contract deal."

The board ordered the union to drop these new demands as it heads back to the bargaining table.

– Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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