On July 27, 700 workers employed by Swissport at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Ontario, walked off the job. The workers are baggage and cargo handlers, maintenance personnel, and cleaners for more than 30 airlines. They cited the company’s uncompromising attitude and disrespect for workers as the cause of the labor dispute.
The last collective agreement expired July 23. Swissport is attempting to impose a three-year wage freeze and would like “flexibility” to change schedules with 96 hours advance notice, leaving workers without stable, predictable schedules.
Swissport has brought in hundreds of untrained, inexperienced temporary workers to act as strikebreakers. “We’re shocked at how Swissport is willing to sacrifice airport safety and jeopardize travel plans to gain an upper hand at the bargaining table,” says Harjinder Badial, vice president of Teamsters Local Union 419, which represents the workers.
To safely work in sensitive areas of the airport, baggage handlers normally require three to four weeks of training, rather than the three or four days of training for the temporary workers. It is also unclear how the workers were able to quickly pass airport staff background checks that normally take three to six months.