Montreal

Facing hefty pay cuts, workers demonstrate at Trudeau Airport

"I'm a good worker, I never stuck my head out, and they still came for me. So this was a big shock for me," said one union member.

Union says airport is threatening to hire private security firm to do their jobs

The airport is asking for salary and benefit cuts, and the union says they will be replaced by a private contractor if they refuse. (Arian Zarrinkoub/CBC Montreal)

Aéroports de Montréal workers held a demonstration at Trudeau Airport on Sunday to protest salary and benefit cuts sought by their employer.

The white-collar union's 93 members are facing a salary cut of up to 33 per cent.

If they don't agree, union says the airport is threatening to hire an external contractor to do the work instead.

Union member Valery Tartaglia says that while unionized employees may cost more than a contractor, that's because they have been thoroughly trained to operate in the busy airport.

"We're all in different situations, but the bottom line is we have bills to pay," said Tartaglia, who provides information and helps direct the flow of foot traffic at customs and before travellers pass through security.

"We're all here because we like the airport," she said.

The union says the airport is considering contracting private security firm Garda World to replace the workers. According to their website, Garda has a roster of over 4,300 employees in more than 35 airports in Canada and Africa, including Toronto's Pearson Airport.

Marc-André Legault, an enrollment officer who manages the system that controls security doors at the airport, says he's concerned about the risks of hiring workers that do not have the same level of training he does.

"Yes, they're going to save some money on pension plans and all that, but the real cost they're going to lose is the knowledge," he said.

If the union accepted the airport's offer, he says his salary would be cut by about $18,000, to around $34,000 a year.

"I'm a good worker, I never stuck my head out, and they still came for me. So this was a big shock for me," he said.

If the union accepted the airport’s offer, Marc-André Legault says his salary would be cut by about $18,000. (CBC Montreal)

He says it took him 10 years working on the ground at the airport, plus training to manage the access control system, to do his job properly.

"I could paralyze the entire airport if I make one mistake," he said.

Yvon Barrière, vice-president for the Quebec region of Alliance de la Fonction publique du Canada, the parent organization of white-collar airport workers' union, said they will not accept any reduction in salary or benefits.

He said the executive bonuses given out last year at the airport nearly match the savings from the proposed cuts.

Aéroports de Montréal spokesperson Anne-Sophie Hamel said that the steps taken by the airport are in accordance with the collective agreement, and that no decision has been made yet about hiring an external contractor as negotiations with the union continue.

She said there will be no layoffs during the holiday season.

With files from Arian Zarrinkoub

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