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Union says Porter Airlines trying to silence its members with lawsuit

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

TORONTO - Porter Airlines is using a lawsuit to stop the union representing 22 striking workers from protesting the way the airline treats its employees, the Canadian Office and Professional Employees union says.

In a statement of defence filed in Ontario Superior court, COPE said Wednesday a lawsuit filed by Porter over comments made on Twitter is an abuse of process designed to silence and restrict the union and its members.

"The intended purpose of this litigation is to intimidate the defendants so that they abandon their legitimate criticism of the plaintiffs," the statement said.

Porter Airlines filed a lawsuit in April seeking $3 million for general and special damages for defamation and $1 million in punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages.

The lawsuit named the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 343 and its strike co-ordinator, Mary Stalteri, as defendants.

According to court documents, Porter alleges libellous comments against the airline were made by Stalteri on behalf of the union through a Twitter account under the username (at)PorterStrike.

Porter said the tweets used false and misleading information about safety protocols and training practices for the airline and its workers.

The statement of claim contains allegations that have not been proven in court

The union said the comments are fair comment and based on facts.

The 22 employees on strike refuel planes for Porter Airlines. They walked out on Jan. 10.

Talks with a mediator regarding a first contract for the workers, who organized last August, broke down over the issues of wages. The union has said the two sides also cannot agree on benefits and safety.

Porter Aviation Holdings Inc., which employs the workers, has previously said negotiations stalled when the union turned down an average wage increase of 6.1 per cent for this year.

Porter has trained replacement workers to fill in during the labour disruption.

Porter flies to about a dozen cities in Eastern Canada and the United States and carried 2.45 million passengers last year.

The airline is seeking permission to fly jets out its main base on Toronto's waterfront after placing a conditional order for 12 Bombardier CS100 aircraft, with options for 18 more.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/the-canadian-press/130522/union-says-porter-airlines-trying-silence-its-members-lawsui