Strike may af­fect flights at Pear­son, air­port says

The Western Star - - Obituaries / Canada - BY BREN­NAN DO­HERTY

Trav­ellers head­ing to Canada’s busiest air­port were warned that a strike by hun­dreds of ground crew work­ers could af­fect some flights Fri­day, but the labour dis­pute did not cre­ate any ma­jor prob­lems for pas­sen­gers.

The strik­ing work­ers at Toronto’s Pear­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port in­clude bag­gage han­dlers, cargo han­dlers, cabin clean­ers, some em­ploy­ees who tow planes and other ground crew.

Since vot­ing over­whelm­ingly Thurs­day night to re­ject a deal with their em­ployer, Swis­s­port, the union­ized work­ers have been walk­ing picket lines, hoist­ing signs and call­ing for a fair con­tract.

Swis­s­port ser­vices sev­eral ma­jor air­lines at the air­port, in­clud­ing Air Transat, Sun­wing Air­lines, Bri­tish Air­ways, Cathay Pa­cific, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa. Air Canada and WestJet are not ser­viced by Swis­s­port.

The air­port said the labour dis­rup­tion could im­pact some flights and asked pas­sen­gers to check the sta­tus of their flights.

Isaac Zon­i­cle, a strik­ing worker, said the labour dis­pute was more likely to have an ef­fect later in the day on in­ter­na­tional flights ser­viced by Swis­s­port.

“This is when you’re go­ing to need all the knowl­edge­able peo­ple who know what’s go­ing on,” he said.

The Greater Toronto Air­ports Au­thor­ity said in a state­ment Fri­day af­ter­noon that Pear­son had been run­ning smoothly “with min­i­mal im­pact” through­out the day.

Michael Peck, a pas­sen­ger fly­ing with Sun­wing, an air­line ser­viced by Swis­s­port, said the strik­ing work­ers had not made it dif­fi­cult for him to get into the air­port.

“They did not in­ter­fere with us get­ting in. Ev­ery­thing was in or­der,” he said, adding that he had not heard of any ma­jor de­lays as a re­sult of the labour dis­pute.

As­ger Laursen, a pas­sen­ger wait­ing for a flight to Copen­hagen, also said he wasn’t too wor­ried about the strike af­fect­ing his plans.

“They’re just protest­ing,” he said, not­ing that his air­line, Ice­landair, isn’t ser­viced by Swis­s­port.

Alice Wol­ski, whose daugh­ter was tak­ing an Air Transat flight with six friends on Fri­day, said she sup­ported the strike.

She said a worker on the picket line told her about work­ing 12-hour shifts with­out breaks and be­ing de­nied meet­ings with the com­pany to ad­dress their con­cerns.

“I hope all of that goes well,” she said of her daugh­ter’s flight. “But I think (the strik­ing work­ers) fi­nally have to take a stand and do some­thing about this.”

Picket lines had been set up out­side Pear­son’s Ter­mi­nal 3, as well as at a cargo ter­mi­nal near Swis­s­port’s main of­fices. Strik­ing work­ers were al­low­ing traf­fic into the cargo ter­mi­nal in in­ter­vals.

Team­sters Lo­cal 419, the union rep­re­sent­ing the work­ers, has 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.

Swis­s­port said it has bar­gained in good faith through­out con­tract talks.

$1 '*-& 1)050

Pas­sen­gers line up at Pear­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Toronto in Jan­uary 2014.

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