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Bill C-257 Threatens to Shut Down Canada’s Airports, Industry Warns

Airports urge lawmakers to defeat Bill C-257


September 19, 2007
By Carey Fredericks

OTTAWA, Dec. 7 – The Canadian Airports Council today warned the House of Commons Human Resources committee that Bill C-257, An Act to Amend the Canada Labour Code (Replacement Workers), if passed, could shut down some or all of Canada's airports in the event of a strike or lock-out.

"Canada's airports are essential components of Canadian infrastructure. To the communities they serve, and indeed to the nation, Canada's airports play a vital economic and social role. They also play an important part in the continued health and security of our nation," said CAC President and CEO Jim Facette.

"Unfortunately if Bill C-257 becomes law, the continued operation of our airports during a strike action would be threatened. Under C-257 labour rules, one or a group of airports could be forced to cease operations in the event of a strike." Canada's airports contend that Canada does not need Bill C-257 since there have been restrictions on the use of replacement workers for nearly seven years and the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) has not issued a single decision involving the actual use of replacement workers.
If passed into law and applicable to airports as proposed, in the event of a strike airports would not be able to use management staff or replacement workers for even the most essential of tasks. The ban on replacement workers also would negatively impact the ability of Canada's airports to meet their federal regulatory safety and security requirements – an untenable situation, Canada's airports say.

Mr. Facette noted that a strike by the employee bargaining unit that provides snow removal services or aircraft de-icing could paralyze airport operations altogether during in the winter. A strike by commissionaires, security screeners or other groups who provide essential security-related duties, also could require an airport to cease operations if management or replacement workers cannot be used to carry out these functions.

Even a strike by non-safety or security labour groups could lead to a halt of most airport operations. Since some service providers are located throughout the country, a strike or lock-out could result in the shut-down for the entire aviation system in Canada under Bill C-257.

The CAC also was critical of the speed with which Bill C-257 is being handled by the committee, with only two days of public consultation and many other organizations being denied the opportunity to provide their comments on the bill.

"It is unfortunate that this bill is being rammed through Parliament and without sufficient public consultation" said Mr. Facette. "Such an important piece of legislation deserves more thorough parliamentary consideration."