Airline caterers at Vancouver International Airport threaten strike, say travel may be affected

About 400 workers who provide food and beverages to major airlines at Vancouver International Airport say their labour rights have been violated and they're prepared to strike if no action is taken.

Union says employees are having to work up to 10 days in a row without overtime

Vancouver workers from a multi-national airline catering company say their labour rights have been violated and they are prepared to strike if no action is taken. (CBC)

About 400 workers who provide food and beverages to major airlines at Vancouver International Airport say their labour rights have been violated and they're prepared to strike if no action is taken.

Robert Demand, president of B.C.'s union for hotel and hospitality workers, Unite Here Local 40, said the union is mediating with airline catering company Gate Gourmet but added it's still far apart with the employer.

"Workers can work eight, nine, 10 days in a row without receiving any kind of overtime pay. We've also seen that [Gate Gourmet] really become cold hearted when they deal with sick and injured workers in this workplace," Demand said.

"We want to issue a travel alert to Air Canada and the general public. We want to let them know that there is a high likelihood of a labour dispute at YVR."

The workers' contract expired on July 31, 2016. Last week workers voted to authorize job actions, including a strike if no progress was made at the table. The union met with workers Aug. 11.

The company said it's committed to its employees and its legal obligations. 

"Gate Gourmet is working actively in good faith with the union through the assistance of a government-appointed mediator," said a company spokesperson.

"We are focused on reaching a new contract that provides enhancements for our employees, and we remain optimistic that we will reach a new labour agreement for membership vote without any disruptions."

Jenny Kwan, NDP MP for Vancouver East, has thrown her support behind the workers.

"What we want to say to Air Canada and to all the other major airlines that uses Gate Gourmet services is to ensure that they negotiate fairly and honestly with the workers, that's all that we're asking for," she said.

Demand said the employees previously agreed to a three-year wage freeze, but have since been stripped of overtime pay.

A spokesperson from YVR said in an email that the airport authority is aware of ongoing talks between Gate Gourmet and the union, and said there is currently no impact to operations at the airport.

With files from Angela Sterritt