Ground crew workers strike may affect flights at Pearson, airport says
More than 700 workers walked off job Thursday night after rejecting contract offer from Swissport
Toronto's Pearson airport is warning passengers that a strike of more than 700 ground crew workers could affect some flights on Friday.
The members of Teamsters Local 419 began picketing around 10 p.m. ET Thursday after rejecting a contract offer from Swissport. The company services 30 airlines at the airport, including Sunwing, Air Transat, Air France and British Airways.
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The striking workers include baggage and cargo handlers, cabin cleaners and other ground staff, as well as some employees who tow planes as part of the airlines' Swissport services.
The union has set up picket lines outside Pearson's Terminal 3, as well as at a cargo terminal near Swissport's main offices.
"It's about respect and doing the right thing," said Omer Khawaja, who has been a baggage handler with the company for 12 years. "They don't treat us like human beings. We're just machines to them."
"We're not here to impact any travellers. We're just here to get our point across."
The union said Swissport is attempting to impose a three-year wage freeze on the majority of the workers, require staff to work a minimum of 30 hours a week to qualify for full benefits and is seeking the right to change schedules with 96 hours' advance notice.
Labour disruptions at the airport may affect some flights. As always, please check your flight status.—@TorontoPearson
"I waited two years to get my benefits and now they want to take that away," said ramp agent Shawn Lenglett. "We're overworked and underpaid."
Pierre Payette, Swissport Canada's vice-president of operations, said the company has bargained in good faith throughout contract talks. It also put out a memo to employees Tuesday, asking them to vote in favour of the company's final offer.
Airlines say they've made plans to curb delays
Air Transat said it was taking measures to ensure none of its flights would be delayed if a strike occurs. British Airways said it had a contingency plan and would continue to operate all its flights.
WestJet, which does not work with Swissport, said it was aware of the situation and advised passengers to arrive early for their flights to avoid delays.
Air Canada told CBC Toronto Friday there will be no impact to its customers as it operates its own baggage handling at Pearson.
With files from The Canadian Press