Another day, another possible strike in the world of aviation.
One week after WestJet averted a strike that would have seen baggage and customer service agents walk off the job, the union representing catering workers who serve airlines flying out of Vancouver International Airport (YVR) have issued a 72-hour strike notice.
Unite Here Local 40, which represents people in the hotel, food service, construction camps, and airport industries throughout British Columbia, says it filed a strike notice on Wednesday (July 27) after employees of Gate Gourmet voted 98 per cent in favour of job action.
The potential strike action could impact services at Air Canada, Air France, KLM and other airline clients of Gate Gourmet, according to a press release.
The workers are responsible for preparing in-flight meals, assembling them onto trays, loading flight attendant trolleys with beverages, snacks, and duty-free items and delivering them to the plane.
UNITE HERE Local 40 said it filed a strike notice, which authorizes workers to take job actions, up to and including a strike, “after a series of fruitless bargaining sessions.”
The strike vote comes amid staff shortages at YVR Airport, resulting in “heavier workloads for employees,” and delays for travellers, the union said.
“Airline catering workers have been working day in and day out, serving travellers through the pandemic. As tourism came back this year and consumer prices hit 31-year highs, we are overworked and underpaid,” said Kiran Hundal, a Gate Gourmet tray assembly worker and bargaining committee member, in the release.
“We’ve attempted to address these issues in good faith with the company, but they continue to propose low wage increases and cuts to our health benefits. This has left us with no other choice but to issue a strike notice.”
Speaking to CBC's The Early Edition, Here Local 40 organizer Mike Biskar said employees are looking for a six per cent pay increase in the first year and a four per cent increase next year.
The workers aren’t employed by the airlines. Rather, they are contracted by airlines to work for four companies, Biskar told CBC, noting that most make roughly $17 an hour while senior employees make $26 an hour.
The union says that pandemic layoffs led to a “significant reduction in airline catering staff,” and staffing levels have yet to recover as demand for air travel rapidly returned.
In a statement, Gate Gourmet spokesperson David Taylor said the company is committed to negotiating a new agreement as soon as possible to prevent disruptions.
"Contrary to a public statement made by a union representative, Gate Gourmet is not seeking concessions on existing benefits. The company has offered an increase in the overall compensation package for its employees," Taylor told CBC.
The union and Gate Gourmet have agreed to continue negotiations in August.