AC/CP Merger Blues...

Thu Apr 13, 2000 8:17 am

*Union 'war zone' at Pearson*

Pearson Airport ramp handlers say the merger battle between
Air Canada and Canadian Airlines has left the boardrooms and
sunken to fistfights on the tarmac.

The workers claim there's a "turf war" at Pearson. In the past
week, there have been seven assaults -- verbal and physical -- as
handlers from the two airlines fight to maintain seniority with the
International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers,
Local 2754.

The IAM, which represents workers at both airlines, refused
comment yesterday.

Recently, a Canadian handler suffered a bloody nose and ear after
an Air Canada worker decked him last Saturday. Another man
was belted across the throat with a steel bar. Both injuries were
minor and the incidents weren't reported to police.

Insp. John Byrne, of Peel's airport division, said his force has had
concerns about the unions as Air Canada and Canadian merge.


"We knew there was some bad blood there. We've had concerns
surrounding the merger," Byrne said.

Three handlers, one from Air Canada and two from Canadian,
yesterday described Pearson as a "war zone."

"There's a turf war going on out here," said one 10-year handler.
"It's like a war zone."

Another said fistfights are taking place on the tarmacs.

"It's a vendetta, with one group fighting another," another said.
"Guys are scrapping for union seniority."

They said handlers are fearful rivals may jump them after the
Canadian handler suffered the bloody nose and ear.

Air Canada spokesman Laura Cooke said the matter has to be
dealt with by the IAM, not the airlines. Officials for Canadian
Airlines and the Greater Toronto Airport Authority also said
seniority is a union matter.

The rivalry stems from reports that Air Canada handlers will be
given top seniority because the airline is in the process of bailing
out cash-strapped Canadian and its employees.

A sign of things to come?