As the airline industry in Canada starts to see a rebound, a disintegrating labour negotiation could throw a wrench into Calgary’s airside operations.
In a statement released on Thursday, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District Lodge 140 stated that negotiations between the union and its employer Airport Terminal Services have hit “turbulence.”
IAM represents employees in Calgary who provide baggage handling and aircraft services for WestJet and United Airlines and the Calgary International Airport.
Kevin Timms, general chairperson for IAM District Lodge 140, said negotiations had been going on for months and a “final offer” from the company was presented to the employees this week.
“We took the employer’s offer out to our membership and it was turned down. Our members also voted overwhelmingly to go on strike,” wrote Timms. “It is completely disrespectful to our members how this employer has handled themselves throughout this bargaining process.”
Timms added that the union will continue to push for a fair deal for its employees.
“It is the will and the work of our members that make the aircraft move. They work in one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, in all weather conditions and 365 days a year,” said Timms. “Airport Terminal Services needs to get back to the table and negotiate a fair collective bargaining agreement. Our members feel disrespected.”
If the union does choose to act on its strike vote, IAM officials said it would have to provide ATS with 72 hours notice, adding that job action could cause flight disruptions.
A WestJet spokesperson said in a statement that the airline is aware of the ongoing negotiations, but would not comment on the possible impact on the airline’s schedule or passengers.
“We have been informed that the parties are in continued discussion and committed to negotiating towards an agreement,” read the statement.
The Calgary International Airport echoed WestJet’s comments in a statement, adding that it’s focused on safe and efficient operations.
“We understand discussions are still underway and we are hopeful that the parties involved can reach an agreement as soon as possible. We are in close contact with our airline partners and ATS to monitor the situation so we can keep travelers updated on any potential impacts.”
ATS did not respond to request for comment from Global News.