baggage-handlers

Baggage handlers at Toronto and Montreal airports began picketing Tuesday night after a deal could not be reached. ((Tony Smyth/CBC))

Around 400 baggage handlers at Toronto and Montreal airports went on strike Tuesday after company and union representatives were unable to reach a deal.

The employees, who handle loading and unloading of baggage for several airlines, including Air Transat, Air France, British Airways and Swissair, began striking at around 8 p.m. at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, as well as Mirabel and Trudeau airports in Montreal.

There have been no significant flight delays at Pearson because of the action, and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority says other airport operations are not affected.

"We're not asking for something that's astronomical or anything like that. We just want a fair deal," said Harjinder Badial, a Toronto spokesman for Teamsters Local 419. The collective agreement expired in November 2010, Badial said.

Salaries, as well as night and split-shift bonuses, are the main issues in the dispute.

"They give us four hours in the morning, they'll make us stay home for seven hours or six hours, and then make us come back for another four hours to work," said Victor Gomez, one of the workers picketing at Pearson.

The baggage handlers are employed by Handlex, a subsidiary of Air Transat.

"In terms of baggage it's going to be difficult. I know the company has claimed they have a contingency plan. I'm sure there will be delays," Badial said.

Handlex has told the GTAA that it has a contingency plan, and the union says it expects managers and replacement workers will be used.