Food service strike: Air Canada, WestJet refine menus at Toronto Pearson

Airline ground crew walks past grounded Air Canada planes as they sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. © Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press file photo

More than 800 workers responsible for providing food and beverages on flights leaving Toronto Pearson International Airport are on strike.

The Gate Gourmet workers, an airline catering and logistics company, went on strike Tuesday after voting 96 per cent to reject a final offer from the company, Teamsters Local Union 647 said in a statement.

“Our members accepted a wage freeze during the pandemic to help this company survive,” said Martin Cerqua, lead union negotiator and president of Local Union 647.

“Now their managers brag about how profitable their operations have become at Pearson, while proposing wage increases as low as 89 cents an hour.”

The union expects many flights leaving Toronto will have little to no food on board; impacted airlines include WestJet, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, Air India, Aero Mexico, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Jetlines, as well as Air Canada, which the union said will be most affected by the strike.

The union added Gate Gourmet workers are paid on average between $17.69 and $20 per hour, below other airline catering companies in Toronto and Gate Gourmet workers in Vancouver. The union also claims slashed staffing levels have put workers at risk.

In a statement, Gate Gourmet Canada said it’s “disappointed” that a strike is underway.

“On Friday, the union informed us that they would cease negotiations and demanded a final offer, which Gate Gourmet Canada presented. The union walked away from the negotiating table, despite our belief that Gate Gourmet’s offer is fair and market competitive,” it said, adding the company was offering a 12 per cent pay raise over three years.

“At our operation in Toronto, we have established contingency plans with our airline customers to minimize any impact on them and their passengers. We remain committed to doing right by our employees and ending the strike so that we can continue to partner with our airlines customers and serve the travelling public.”

Air Canada and WestJet, Canada’s largest airlines, said in separate statements they’ve prepared for the work stoppage.

“We anticipate there will be no impact on our international flights, but we plan to make some adjustments to food and beverage service on certain North American flights departing from and, in some cases on shorter routes, returning to Toronto,” an Air Canada spokesperson told Global News Toronto in a statement Tuesday.

“Short-haul flights of less than two hours duration being most impacted.”

The airline added that flights over two hours within North America will have fewer menu options, while flights under two hours will not have hot meals available; snacks and water service will remain.

Meanwhile, WestJet said its Boeing 737 flights leaving Pearson will be impacted.

“Guests who are eligible to receive an inflight meal including those in the Premium cabin or extended comfort seating, and all guests travelling on transatlantic flights will receive either an alternative option or a food and beverage voucher for use in the terminal, pre-departure,” the company said in a statement on its website.

“In addition, WestJet is advising guests travelling to or from Toronto to plan ahead and bring an extra snack and/or beverage for their journey.”

Source: Global News