12/11/2012 07:08 EST | Updated 02/10/2013 05:12 EST

Security strike at eastern airports may be avoided

The union representing security screeners at 17 Atlantic Canadian airports is re-entering negotiations in the hopes of avoiding a strike during the holiday season.

Talks between the United Steelworkers and Securitas Transportation Airport Security broke down in September.

The union's contract expired in October, and workers could have walked off the job as early as a day later. But any strike was put on hold when federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt asked the Canada Industrial Relations Board to rule on whether the workers provide an essential service.

Lawrence McKay, the area co-ordinator for the United Steelworkers, says that ruling may no longer be necessary.

"We met two weeks ago in mediation with a federal mediator and Securitas, and at the end of that meeting we decided that we'd go back on the 17th," said McKay.

"We have booked until the 21st, and we're hoping that we can get an agreement before the 21st."

The union had been working on an essential-services agreement with Securitas. The union wants 80 per cent staffing levels in the event of a strike, something it says has been allowed at other Canadian airports.

McKay said while talks are ongoing, the union has asked the Canada Industrial Relations Board to hold off on its essential services ruling.

Should the workers be declared an essential service, the board will also determine how many of the security screeners, if any, could walk off the job in the event of a strike.