09/11/2012 02:11 EDT | Updated 11/11/2012 05:12 EST

St. John's airport workers on strike

Unionized workers at St. John's International Airport set up picket lines early Tuesday morning, claiming that last-ditch efforts to prevent a strike had gone nowhere.

The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UTCE) represents about 85 airport workers who handle such duties as equipment maintenance, fire and emergency services and runway clearing.

The 85 members of UCTE local 90916 provide operational services, including runway clearing, buildings and equipment upkeep, fire, security and emergency services, as well as administrative and billing services. Duties outlined in the Essential Services agreement will be carried out as normal.

An agreement on essential workers is in place to keep the airport running, although tropical storm Leslie had already caused many cancellations and delays at the airport.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, the umbrella union for the UCTE, said a key issue for the workers is preventing concessions at the bargaining table. PSAC said negotiators for the St. John's Airport Authority refused to take such measures off the table.

UCTE regional vice-president Wayne Fagan told CBC News that negotiations went all through Monday night, but were as fruitless as weekend negotiations.

"From Friday until now, there was really nothing meaningful," Fagan said in an interview.

Fagan said the union is dead-set against concessions, particularly over contracting-on and any withdrawals of pensions and benefits.

"We're going to stand strong against those clawbacks," he said.

The union said the workers are seeking an unspecified wage increase "that would bring their wages in line with comparable international airports and the strong and the healthy economic situation of both the St. John’s region and this employer."