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Saint John Airport union inching closer to strike action

Strike action inches closer at Saint John Airport
WATCH: The union representing about twenty five unionized workers at the Saint John Airport says it could be in a position to give strike notice within weeks. As Andrew Cromwell reports, at the same time the airport says talks have been productive.

With the holiday travel season fast approaching, the clock is ticking for the Saint John Airport Authority and the union representing about 25 workers to ink a deal.

There seems to be differing opinions on the state of negotiations between the two sides. The workers are responsible for a variety of different duties including runway maintenance, firefighting, mechanical and administrative staff.

The union and airport have been bargaining since February with pensions and wages the two main issues. Union reps say they’re looking for a defined benefit pension plan, but the airport authority wants to be able to walk away from it at any time, which the union feels would be problematic.

“Obviously we’re looking for income security into retirement and we don’t want to jeopardize that,” said Chris Bussey, Atlantic region vice-president of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees.

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“We want something that’s going to be stable and that’s going to be good for our members and their families.”

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READ MORE: Saint John Airport completes upgrades to primary runway

It appears at least from the union’s standpoint that a strike is more in the picture. Not all workers are allowed to walk off the job and talks are ongoing regarding essential staff.

Bussey feels if job action were to take place the airport would be impacted in some way.

“There would be some some services that would continue on but it wouldn’t be everything,” Bussey explained. “Potentially when we strike at airports, we do see delays.”

There is a strikingly different tone coming from the Saint John Airport itself. President and CEO Derrick Stanford said in a statement that it’s “premature” to discuss contingency plans right now. He said “from our perspective, we consider negotiations to be productive and feel that we’re moving forward.”

READ MORE: Aircraft leaves runway at Saint John Airport

The union says it too wants a deal and they’re close, but appears ready to take the next step.

“As soon as the essential service agreement is in place I would view that we would give our 72 hours notice and we would hit the picket line,” said Bussey.

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Bussey says he expects that could happen within a matter of weeks.