01/08/2013 04:54 EST | Updated 01/08/2013 04:57 EST

Porter Airlines Strike? Toronto Refueling Staff May Walk Off Job Thursday


Passengers on the chic Toronto-based airline Porter will still be able to fly if the company's refueling staff go on strike, the airline insisted Tuesday.

The Canadian Office and Professional Employees (COPE) Union, which represents 22 refueling workers at Toronto’s downtown island airport, issued a statement on Tuesday warning that they will be in a legal strike position as of midnight Thursday morning.

Though Porter Fixed Based Operations employees earn considerably less than the industry average, the employer has refused to negotiate a reasonable wage increase,” the statement read.

Porter Aviation told the Toronto Star in a written statement that the airline expects to be able to continue operating even if the refueling staff walk out on strike.

We’re disappointed that the union is trying to intimidate customers by suggesting flights will be disrupted if there is a strike or lockout,” the company stated.

"The Union has been very reasonable in its requests," COPE spokesperson Mary Stalteri said in a statement. "We sincerely hope to be able to prevent a strike and unnecessary inconvenience to the travelling public."

Porter employees have traditionally been non-unionized, but this has been changing recently.

The refueling employees in Toronto joined COPE in September, some six months after about 60 Porter employees in Ottawa, including customer service reps and operations agents, joined the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Launched in 2006 and based at Toronto’s island airport, Porter serves 14 cities in central and eastern Canada, and six cities in the U.S., including Boston, Chicago and New York.

The airline is facing another problem: The possible loss of some of its slots at Newark Airport, near New York City. The airline says losing the slots would not affect service to New York City.

This is the second time in less than a year that Canadians have faced a potential airline strike. The much larger Air Canada came within a hair of a major strike in March of last year, before the federal government passed back-to-work legislation.

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