Looming YVR strike may impact visits to Whistler 

Union boss warning of 'significant delays'

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Union representatives for over 300 workers at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) issued a 72-hour strike notice on Tuesday, Aug. 27, warning that Labour Day long weekend travellers could experience "significant delays" as a result.

However, YVR officials said there would be no delays.

"This is federally regulated and we do have a Maintenance of Activities agreement with the union with roles essential to keeping the airport operating as normal for whatever time it takes," said Anne Murray, vice-president of community and environmental affairs at the Vancouver Airport Authority.

"It is Labour Day and it will be busy, so we do encourage people to check our website, YVR.com and check with the airlines before they come."

Over 80 per cent of the affected workers voted to strike early in August. The employees provide services such as emergency response, customer care for international arrivals, runway maintenance, airfield and approach lighting, passenger loading operations, maintenance and administrative services.

YVR confirmed that negotiations with a mediator are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday this week to try and avert a job action.

Murray said picket lines won't be allowed in the terminals, but there may be some outdoors. However, she said picket lines will be "safe and allow the respectful passage of customers and other employees."

Some of the key concerns put forward by the union include work-hour flexibility and job protection — specifically protection from the contracting out of jobs.

It's still unknown how this might affect Whistler — most late summer travel to the resort is regional. However, a prolonged strike could impact fall conference business.

As well, there's a potential to impact the RBC GranFondo Whistler on Sept. 7, as a growing percentage of participants in the 122km ride from Vancouver to Whistler are destination travellers.

Lindsay Carswell, the director of marketing for RBC GranFondo Whistler, said they would be watching the situation closely as well.

"(Riders are) coming from 14 different countries," he said. "Of course, most participants are from Canada but approximately a thousand (of up to 4,500) are from out of province," he said. "We don't know how many participants plan to drive or fly to the event but the pending job action is a concern for us. We will be monitoring the situation closely."

According to Patricia Westerholm, manager of corporate communications for Tourism Whistler, there are two large conferences scheduled for September. The Toronto Centre for Phenogenomics is hosting roughly 1,200 conference goers from Sept. 10 to 15, while the U.S.-based Society of Economic Geologists is hosting roughly 1,500 from September 21 to 28.

"Given that job action is potentially starting this weekend it won't impact those group arrivals immediately," said Westerholm. "Having said that, of course job action at the airport could cause significant delays for travellers. We will continue to monitor the situation as it unfurls.

"Hopefully we will soon have a better understanding of the exact impact at YVR and we can better assist those affected, mitigating the impacts as much as we can."

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