Halifax - Commissionaires Nova Scotia (CNS), PSAC local 851000, and the Halifax International Airport are engaged in something of a "three's a crowd" scenario.
CNS employs local 851000, otherwise known as "the airport commissionaires", and the Halifax airport is the client. In other words, according to local 851000 president Miles States, the CNS should be undertaking the employer side of the relationship, and the airport is the place of employment. Airport management shouldn't be firing members of local 851000, because that goes beyond their jurisdiction, as they are not actually the employer.
But that's exactly what's been happening.
"[CNS doesn't] seem to be able to manage their own men," says States. "They're managing through the airport and that's creating a lot of issues. A lot of the commissionaires have been let go because it seems that the airport manager doesn't like a person. The airport is the client, we work for the commissionaires. [CNS doesn't] seem to be managing to the specs of their contract."
It is also very important to understand that the airport has been recognized by three levels of Canadian courts as a federal-jurisdiction workplace. This means that overtime kicks in at 40 hours, rather than the provincially accepted 48 hours. Federal workplaces also have more statutory holidays.
Which is all well and good, except CNS has been paying the members of local 851000 for years as though it was a provincial workplace. Federal Courts have determined that the CNS owes members of local 851000 about $1 million in back-pay. For their part, CNS has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, where the case now resides. All this to say, there is a certain degree of distance at the bargaining table.
“They want our members to give up our legal rights to have that decision upheld," says States. "Three courts have told them they have to pay, and they're still dragging it off to the courts, that's where its at right now. They've brought us to an impasse with negotiations. We can't bargain while this is in the courts."
Indeed, on January 19th, the 175 member local voted 90% to strike, rejecting the CNS's contract offer. While discussions have been ongoing since then, as of press time there had been no agreement reached, and newer offers from CNS have not been seen to be conciliatory enough to be brought to membership for another vote.
Miles States will be speaking at "State of the Unions II", Tuesday, April 10th, 6:30-8:30pm at Just Us! Cafe on Spring Garden Road.