Cascade Aerospace seeks court order to ban picketing on property

Unionized workers at the Abbotsford facility allege the company bused in replacement workers.

Unionized workers at Cascade Aerospace on Townline Road near the Abbotsford Airport walked the picket line on Tuesday.

Unionized workers at Cascade Aerospace on Townline Road near the Abbotsford Airport walked the picket line on Tuesday.

An escalating dispute at Cascade Aerospace in Abbotsford has resulted in the company seeking a court order to prevent unionized workers from picketing on company property.

Meanwhile, Unifor Local 114, the union involved in the dispute, is accusing the company of busing replacement workers across picket lines.

More than 400 workers began striking last Wednesday outside the Abbotsford Airport facility, which services aircraft for military, government and commercial enterprises.

The union represents workers such as aircraft maintenance engineers, interior technicians, painters, sheet metal mechanics and others.

Talks broke down between the two sides over benefits and concessions. They had been in negotiations since early February.

In a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday, the company alleges that union workers are trespassing on private property, and “mass picketing” has “hindered and delayed” Cascade Aerospace operations and interfered with its ability to meet contractual obligations to its customers.

The company alleges that picketing workers have threatened, intimidated and harassed non-union employees and other people using or working at the facility.

Cascade estimates losses of more than $50,000, “including loss of business, reputation and goodwill.” The company is requesting a court order to prohibit union workers from “entering, picketing, blocking or demonstrating on or about the facility.”

A press release issued by Unifor on Tuesday at noon states that striking workers will attend the court hearing on Wednesday morning at the Vancouver Law Courts, where they will support their union’s “legal right to picket their Abbotsford employer in a dispute over equal benefits for young workers.”

Meanwhile, the union says that, contrary to the company’s claims, back-up labourers have been used to do the work of striking technicians and engineers.

The union claims that on Saturday, at least 10 workers wearing CanJet gear were bused across picket lines.

Halifax-based IMP Group owns both Cascade Aerospace and CanJet.

“Replacement workers will only prolong the production delays at Cascade,” said Gavin McGarrigle, B.C. area director for Unifor.

Ben Boehm, vice-president and Cascade’s chief operations officer, has said publicly that the company will not use replacement workers during the strike.

“We’re concerned that Cascade would attempt to mislead the public and their customers about who is performing the repairs,” McGarrigle said.

A statement issued by Cascade on Tuesday afternoon did not address the issue of replacement workers.

Instead, Boehm emphasized the company’s commitment to “supporting its customers during this period … to minimize the impact of this strike on their operational requirements.”

“The company’s last offer was fair and included wage increases and operational changes that will allow us to compete for aircraft maintenance, overhaul and modification work in increasingly competitive domestic and international markets,” he added.

– with files from Alex Butler