Pearson ground crew strike ends

The Swissport strike at Pearson International Airport is over.

The nearly three-month strike of airline baggage handlers and grounds crew at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport has ended.

Swissport International Ltd. baggage and ground crew workers stopped working on July 27, after failing to reach a new deal with the company. Swissport services more than 40 airlines that fly in and out of Canada’s busiest airport.

Nearly 700 workers returned to work on Oct. 18.

Commercial airlines like Air Transat, Sunwing Airlines, British Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch use Swissport employees, as do many cargo carriers, such as UPS. Air Canada and WestJet do not use Swissport at Pearson.

The members of Teamsters Local 419 voted 63 per cent in favour of a new three-year deal with the company.

The union did not offer specifics about the new agreement. In a press release, Harjinder Badial, local vice-president, said the union will continue working to improve working conditions for Swissport employees. The release also says the contract includes minor improvements to wages, benefits and scheduling.

Members voted overwhelmingly to strike, handing the union a strike mandate of 95 per cent in July. They wanted increased wages and advance notice about changes to their schedules.

In a statement, Pierre Payette, Swissport vice-president of operations in Toronto, called the agreement a “good deal” for both sides, and said he was looking forward to the company continuing to operate for the long-term in a sustainable way.

Striking workers had raised concerns about the company hiring temporary workers, and questioned the amount of training these workers received. Each aircraft is different, and baggage handlers need to know how to load each plane properly so proper balance is maintained. They were concerned new workers did not have enough experience to do these jobs properly.

On August 6, an outbound LOT Polish Airlines plane and an inbound Air Canada Rouge plane clipped each other’s wings. Badial told CTV that the union believed that the accident was the result of the strike, and that Swissport had been using temporary workers to fill in for the striking Swissport employees.

The union had filed unfair labour practices against the company. It also said there were delays in baggage handling. Cargo delivery trucks faced hours-long delays during the strike.

In the statement issued after the strike ended, Payette said the company had “lined up the appropriate resources” to make the transition back to work smooth.  

Meagan Gillmore is rabble.ca’s labour reporter.

Photo: IMF

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