Against the backdrop of the ongoing labour dispute at the Winnipeg airport, the strikers’ union is claiming the Winnipeg Airport Authority (WAA) has been sitting on a potential public safety threat for more than a year.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada’s (PSAC) Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (which represents the strikers) informed the media and Minister of Transport Marc Garneau about a "serious incident" that took place on July 20, 2016, that they had "recently received information regarding."
They claim strong winds that day lifted portions of a temporary structure at the airport, which was located within 500 metres of a runway and 20 metres of a taxiway. Their concern is it could potentially endanger both employees and people travelling. The temporary structure continues to be used as a vehicle-screening facility.
Although she would not say where this information came from, Marianne Hladun, regional executive vice-president of PSAC, says it was "given to us in the interest of passenger safety" and denied the allegation had anything to do with the ongoing labour dispute.
"Passengers travelling through need to know and should be made aware of it," she said. "The information we received in confidence indicates that the WAA has been aware of this urgent public safety concern for more than a year, but has yet to fix the problem."
Tyler MacAfee, director of corporate communications and public affairs for WAA, denies the allegation and says it is obvious it is related to the labour dispute.
He claims a bad storm on the day in question resulted in some fabric on the structure ripping. An engineering assessment of the facility was quickly conducted and it was determined the facility was structurally sound prior to and during repairs.
"I can tell you right now that what they’re saying is completely false," MacAfee said. "To be blunt: the union is trying to question the safety of the airport to leverage a financial windfall for their members."
He went on to add that as far as he is concerned there is no issue with the structure and that the WAA exceeds safety requirements in one of the most heavily regulated industries in the country.