Ground workers strike at Toronto’s Pearson airport

Associated Press

Toronto —  About 700 ground crew workers went on strike Thursday night at Toronto’s airport, the busiest airline hub in Canada.

The unionized workers at Pearson International Airport walked out Thursday night after rejecting a contract offer from Swissport, a company that services 30 airlines at the airport including Sunwing, Air Transat, Air France and British Airways.

The members of Teamsters Local 419 include baggage handlers, cargo handlers, cabin cleaners and other ground staff as well as some employees who tow planes. The union says 95 percent voted against the contract proposal. Its leaders said the strikers would not try to hamper passengers.

“We’re hoping to have little or no impact on the public, Local 419 vice president Harjinder Badial told reporters after the vote.

It was unclear if the strike would have any effect on operations at the airport, but the Greater Toronto Airports Authority said it had a contingency plan for dealing with a strike but provided no details.

Air Transat and British Airways said they had plans to avoid flight delays or cancellations.

The union said Swissport was trying 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 have the right to change schedules with 96 hours advance notice.

Pierre Payette, Swissport Canada’s vice president of operations, said the company had bargained in good faith.