By: Esther Klein
Unionized workers are on strike at Canada’s busiest airport after rejecting a contract proposal from Swissport by a 95 per cent margin.
Swissport, the world’s leading provider of ground and air cargo services to the aviation industry, services 30 airlines at the airport including Sunwing, Air Transit, Air France, and British Airways.
The members of Teamsters Local 419, ground crew and baggage handler members, began striking Thursday evening and marched around the airport. Members were waving picket signs and chanting “respect.”
As the strike continues and little progress is made toward a resolution, frustrations begin to mount.
On Tuesday afternoon, people were caught waiting over two hours to receive their bags.
“I just travelled for over 25 hours,” Alicia Katch, a woman returning from India said. “All I want are my bags to get out of here as soon as I can.”
Union spokesperson Harjinder Badial told The Star that he thinks this strike will have little to no effect on the public.
Passengers seem to disagree.
“It is insane that over 200 people who are exhausted from traveling, are sitting around waiting a significant amount of time,” Katch said. “This has a huge effect on the public.”
Jamal Johnson, ground crew worker at Pearson airport for over 10 years, is unhappy with the way Swissport is handling the matter.
“As workers we deserve a larger pay increase and if they are not willing to work with that, we have no choice but to strike,” Johnson told Humber News. “What upsets me the most is that Swissport said that this is their final offer”.
Johnson was one of the many members marching around Pearson on Tuesday afternoon.
Since the strike, part-time workers were hired in place of the many on strike. However, the numbers are too low to keep the efficiency of the busy airport up to par.
Toronto is a transfer city. Passing through Toronto, the longer than usual wait for their bags caused chaos with passengers who worried about making their connections.
“I am very unimpressed with this airport,” Max Green told Humber News. “This is just my stop over from London before heading to New York. I could miss my flight because of the terrible way this airport is run. It is embarrassing that such a hub would run so slowly and inefficiently.”
The union has described Swissport’s contract as unfair to its workers.
Members are also unhappy with the company’s decision to hire 250 temporary workers last May. They claim that these workers have been poorly trained and have been involved in multiple accidents over the past few months.
“They did not take the time to properly train many of the new staff, and it does cause a number of injuries to this workers,” Johnson said.
Swissport denies this allegation and continues to work with the members to end the strike shortly.