SAR Tech maintenance workers are going to binding arbitration with their employer, IMP Aerospace and Defence. File Photo.

Comox SAR maintenance workers heading to binding arbitration

Aircraft maintainers who are responsible for keeping the fleet safe for those keeping the public safe are heading to binding arbitration with their employer.

The decision follows a breakdown in collective bargaining.

Members of the Union of National Defence Employees (which represents approximately 18,000 public and private sector workers at DND facilities across Canada) Local 1018 have been working without a collective agreement since June 30, 2015.

About 50 Search and Rescue aircraft maintainers who provide in-service support at CFB Comox for SARTechs have “been struggling with this for 28 months now,” explained Rick Levigne, president of UNDE Local 1018.

IMP Aerospace and Defence is the prime contractor for the Department of National Defence’s fleet of Cormorant Search and Rescue CH-149 helicopters.

The aircraft maintainers are the mechanics of the helicopter, and provide day-to-day repairs should a system or part fail. There are also members who perform more in-depth detailed scheduled inspections, as well as those who perform logistical and administrative functions.

As they are deemed an essential service, employees are not allowed to strike.

Levine said the union has had three rounds of “very ineffective bargaining and one attempt at mediation,” and the arbitration affects about 75 unionized employees who provide service for the SAR helicopter in both Comox and Gander, Newfoundland.

The last contract was a five-year deal signed in 2010, and Levine noted the last time the union was at the bargaining table with its employer was seven years ago. He added there are many updates in language in the collective agreement, but the main issues include health and safety concerns, increased benefits and wage parity with the industry standard.

In a statement, 19 Wing Public Affairs said the Royal Canadian Air Force remains on standby to deliver search and rescue with its Cormorant helicopters, with the full support of IMP and its employees.

It noted as the maintenance of the helicopter is an essential service, the ongoing contract process between IMP and its employees does not affect the SAR mission.

In an attempt to raise public awareness, the local union created a bus sign campaign, which was featured on local transit within the Comox Valley.

“With IMP, we are dealing with a major player in the world of defence contractors; many Canadians are not aware that the RCAF does not perform maintenance on many of the fleets they operate,” said Levine.

Currently, the union has dates at the end of Feb. 2018 for arbitration, and Levine noted he would hope to have a decision 60 to 90 days after the hearing.

“When you go to binding arbitration, everyone loses really; nobody is ever happy when a third party has to impose a settlement.”

Calls to Halifax-based IMP Group for comment were not returned.

Just Posted

Pride Society of the Comox Valley set to kick off week-long celebration

The organization is celebrating Pride Week with a variety of events to bring the community together.

Work continues on Courtenay’s 4th Street Improvement Project

4th street will be closed to traffic between Duncan and Cliffe Avenue

Inside the music: step behind the curtain at the venerable Vancouver Island Music Festival

Big Read: VIMF in the Comox Valley exemplifies the spirit of an Island summer music festival

Cannabis facility planned in Courtenay

Design up to 100,000 square feet

Major private donation to Kus-kus-sum project

Frank and Bobbi Denton, longtime residents of the Comox Valley, have donated… Continue reading

BC Games: Day 3 wrap and closing ceremonies

The torch in the Cowichan Valley has been extinguished as Fort St. John gets ready to host the 2020 BC Winter Games

Bob Castle’s Under the Glacier cartoon for July 19, 2018

Bob Castle’s Under the Glacier cartoon for July 19, 2018… Continue reading

Police confirm girl, 8 others injured in Toronto shooting; shooter dead

Paramedics said many of the victims in Danforth, including a child, were rushed to trauma centres

Why do they do it? Coaches guide kids to wins, personal bests at the BC Games

Behind the 2,300 B.C. athletes are the 450 coaches who dedicate time to help train, compete

Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau’s nanny

At its top range, the order works out to a rate of $21.79 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week

Lower Mainland teams battle for baseball gold at BC Games

Vancouver Coastal squeaked out a 3-2 win against Fraser Valley

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw people signed an agreement-in-principle with the B.C. government

The signing ceremony, at the Eliza Archie Memorial School, was 25 years in the making

Canada to resettle dozens of White Helmets and their families from Syria

There are fears the volunteers would become a target for government troops

Francesco Molinari wins British Open at Carnoustie

It is his first win at a major and the first by an Italian

Most Read