Toronto

Baggage handlers' union threatens strike at Pearson airport Thursday

Hundreds of baggage handling staff at Toronto's largest airport could walk off the job Thursday amid a battle over what their union sees as a unfair contract.

Union says 700 members of the Teamsters Local Union 419 are disappointed with contract negotiations

Local spokesperson Christopher Monette says the union will urge its 700 members to vote against Swissport's final offer, saying a potential strike could cause problems for about 30 airlines. (Bloomberg News)

Hundreds of baggage handling staff at Toronto's largest airport could walk off the job Thursday amid a battle over what their union sees as an unfair contract. 

Teamsters Canada Local Union 419, which represents regular baggage and cargo handlers, cabin cleaners, and other ground operational roles, has been in negotiations with Swissport Canada, the baggage handling company that employs the union workers, and the Greater Toronto Airport Authority for a new collective agreement for its workers.

Local spokesperson Christopher Monette says the union will urge its 700 members to vote against Swissport's final offer, saying a potential strike could cause problems for about 30 airlines at Pearson International Airport, including Sunwing, Air Transat and others. 

"We're talking about severe delays, flight cancellations potentially. We need to keep in mind that Swissport does baggage handling and a whole bunch of flight critical operations."

The union will be recommending that its members reject the offer put forth by Swissport, which could result in a strike as of Thursday night. (CBC)

Swissport brings in new workers

Monette is critical of Swissport's recent move to employ what he says are "hundreds of brand new, inexperienced, poorly trained temporary agency workers."

He sees the move as a maneuver by Swissport to continue operations during a strike and "put pressure on the union during negotiations and to replace the normal regular workers."

Pierre Payette, vice president of operations Swissport Canada, says the temporary workers were brought in to support the "summer travel rush" at Pearson. 

He says he's holding out hope for a positive outcome to the vote.

"We are disappointed that Teamsters Local 419 has provided notice of its intention to strike. We remain hopeful that there will be a positive outcome when employees vote on Thursday as our offer is fair to all parties and will ensure Swissport's viability in a competitive market." 

'All we wanted was a fair deal'

Monette says the decision to go on strike is to ensure that union members are not "walked all over". 

"All we wanted was a fair deal. Nobody likes going on strike. But unfortunately, we are being forced into this situation."

The union says it has issued a strike notice to its members and will be in a legal strike position Thursday at 9:30pm.

​Meanwhile, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority says it is prepared for any possible disruptions that could come from the possible strike, saying passengers should consult with their airlines who will have the most up-to-date information on their flights. 

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