Union, Viking Air reach agreement

North Saanich airplane manufacturer avoids picket line

A week-long debate turned fortuitous Friday as local Canadian Auto Workers union members agreed to a new contract with Viking Air.

The North Saanich airplane manufacturer faced strike notice by its 270 CAW employees last week, with the two sides coming to an agreement as the strike notice expired at noon last Thursday.

“We’re happy that that is now behind us,” said Viking president and CEO David Curtis. “It’s been a long week and we’re happy that we have a collective agreement that will take us into 2014.”

Members of CAW Local 114 voted 95 per cent in favour of the agreement. The contract includes retroactive wages of $1,000 each for the year spent without a contract; two per cent retroactively to Nov. 1, 2011; a 2.5 per cent wage increase in 2012 and three per cent in 2013. The latest contract expires Oct. 31, 2014.

On job security, the new contract outlines an increase of 50 per cent in payable severance.

“We’ve put in place what we think is a significant financial disincentive,” said Gavin McGarrigle, CAW national representative.

Curtis sees the language in the severance terms as part of a recognition by the union that Viking wants to keep production in the area. CAW Local 114 includes aircraft mechanics, machinists, sheet metal mechanics, painters, welders, stores persons and labourers. The new contract also stipulates 100 per cent benefits and improves other benefits including footwear allowances.

“The language that we ended up agreeing to in the collective agreement tries to address that if there are positions eliminated here, they’re severance conditions – but at the end of the day I think they are seeing that through our actions we are showing our commitment to Victoria,” Curtis said. “We’re happy that we’re going to continue to play a big role in the local business economy.”

Viking Air re-started production of the de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft in 2010. With the new product, Viking is the only manufacturer of complete aircraft in Western Canada; the firm has also opened a satellite facility in Calgary, Alberta to deal with the expansion.