Vancouver, B.C.

Union says employees are having to work up to 10 days in a row without overtime

 By Ted Alcuitas

Air travel from the Vancouver International Airport could face delays if a threatened strike by food and beverage workers could not be averted.

“We want to issue a travel alert to Air Canada and the general public. We want to let them know that there is a high likelihood of a labour dispute at YVR,” said Robert Demand of Unite Here Local 40.

Speaking at a rally in front of the BC Labour Relations Board offices in downtown Vancouver on Thursday, August 11, Demand said the union iis mediating with airline catering company Gate Gourmet but added it’s still far apart with the employer.

Over 400 workers at Gate Gourmet, a majority of whom are Chinese and Filipino, are without a contract since July 31, 2016.

Filipina Leonila Paraton, a team leader with 20 years of service, spoke of how management treated workers, pitting them against each other.

“Supervisors would ask us how come we do not work as fast as others and why we are doing overtime to finish our work. They don’t hire enough workers and so we have to do the work of two people just to finish the job,” she said, adding that oftentimes workers would go home at 2 AM.

Other speakers accused the company of not treating them with respect when they are injured.

”Workers can work eight, nine, 10 days in a row without receiving any kind of overtime pay. We’ve also seen that [Gate Gourmet] really become cold hearted when they deal with sick and injured workers in this workplace,” Demand said.

The union is accusing the company of reneging on their promise to the workers who accepted a wage-freeze on the last contract three years ago despite winning lucrative new business.

The company told CBC that it is committed to its employees and its legal obligations.

“Gate Gourmet is working actively in good faith with the union through the assistance of a government-appointed mediator,” said a company spokesperson.

“We are focused on reaching a new contract that provides enhancements for our employees, and we remain optimistic that we will reach a new labour agreement for membership vote without any disruptions.”

Jenny Kwan, NDP MP for Vancouver East, has thrown her support behind the workers.

“What we want to say to Air Canada and to all the other major airlines that uses Gate Gourmet services is to ensure that they negotiate fairly and honestly with the workers, that’s all that we’re asking for,” she said.

A spokesperson from YVR said in an email to CBC that the airport authority is aware of ongoing talks between Gate Gourmet and the union, and said there is currently no impact to operations at the airport.