Edmonton airport security screening officers reject latest offer, could strike Aug. 13

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Hundreds of security screening officers at Edmonton International Airport could walk off the job in a few weeks if improvements aren’t made to their new collective agreement offer, the union said Wednesday.

Teamsters Canada said GardaWorld employees from Local 362 that work at EIA voted on the latest offer from their employer last Friday and Saturday.

GardaWorld is the security firm contracted by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to perform passenger and baggage screening at airports in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Ontario.

The union said 95 per cent of those who voted rejected the offer, while at the same time approving strike action.

There are 400 people in the bargaining unit and all work at the Edmonton International Airport, the union said.

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“At issue are primarily wages, as well as pension and respect, dignity, professionalism in the workplace,” said Teamsters Canada communications director Catherine Cosgrove.

The workers will be in a position to strike at the end of a cooling-off period on Aug. 13 and Cosgrove said to avoid that, GardaWorld would need to “significantly improve” their offer.

Global News asked GardaWorld what the backup plan is if employees walk off the job.

“At this point, we still hope to find a common ground that will allow us to have an agreement that will be beneficial for all parties involved,” said a statement from the GardaWorld media relations team.

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The union said this is the second offer to have been voted on by the EIA airport screeners — the first having been rejected at 99.25 per cent.

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The union was not aware of any other airports where screening staff were on the verge of striking.

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Teamsters said there are 80 perimeter security staff in Edmonton who are also in contract negotiations, but are only nearing the end of the conciliation phase so no offer has been presented.

The news comes as Unifor, the union representing more than 700 WestJet employees at airports in Calgary and Vancouver, said they have voted to support a strike if they cannot reach a new contract with the airline.

The workers in Calgary and Vancouver bargaining for their first collective agreement with WestJet start at $15.55 an hour, topping out at $23.87 an hour after seven years.

On Wednesday, those employees voted 98 per cent in support of a strike if they cannot reach an agreement with the airline, and Unifor said they could walk off the job as early as July 27.

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The union said beyond wages, workers find themselves in a “pressure-cooker atmosphere,” stating they’ve endured verbal abuse and physical threats from travellers whose flights were delayed or cancelled by the carrier.

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From abusive language to physical attacks and police calls, front-line workers in the airline industry say they’ve recently found themselves on the receiving end of passenger frustrations over long security queues, cancelled or missed connecting flights, missing or delayed luggage and hours on tarmacs.

Passengers’ frayed nerves and exploding tempers are the outcome of an ongoing struggle by airports and carriers to cope with the massive travel rebound this summer.

Global News has reached out to the Edmonton International Airport about GardaWorld employees rejecting their latest offer and how the airport plans to keep operating if a strike goes ahead next month.

On Thursday, the airport said it wasn’t able to comment on the negotiations except to say it’s happy the two parties continue to meet and discuss, and hope the two sides come to an agreement.

“We value the services provided by these front-line staff and understand the difficult environment we are all working in at this moment,” said statement from Steve Maybee, vice president of communications, operations and infrastructure at EIA.

The airport did not say if there was a backup plan.

Unifor also represents some workers at Global News outlets across Canada.

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— With files from Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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