Source: Teamsters Canada/Facebook

More than 800 Toronto Gate Gourmet airline catering workers represented by Teamsters Local 647 are now on strike at Toronto Pearson Airport against wage cuts and hazardous work conditions.

The strike comes after a 99 per cent strike vote on April 10 and a 96 per cent vote to reject Gate Gourmet’s final offer of a 12 per cent wage increase over three years. This amounts to wage increases as low as 89 cents an hour, after workers have had their wages frozen since the pandemic.

Toronto Gate Gourmet workers are some of the lowest paid among both Gate Gourmet employees and unionized workers as a whole. They make between $17.69 and $20.00 an hour, two to six dollars below Gate Gourmet workers in other cities and other catering companies—far below the living wage in Canada’s most expensive city.

Meanwhile the Swiss company Gategroup, of which Gate Gourmet is a subsidiary, posted its second most profitable year ever in 2023, raking in $4.7 billion in revenue

Not only does Gate Gourmet pay workers poorly, they also force employees to work in dangerous conditions. Gate Gourmet cut 200 jobs over the pandemic, one-fifth of their staff at Toronto-Pearson. Meanwhile, their workload has increased since travel restrictions were lifted. This has put workers at a dramatically increased risk of injury. 

Ben Asare, a forklift operator and chief steward told the Star:

“‘There is so much danger,’ he said, adding that loading a large aircraft such as a Boeing 777 or an Airbus A330 requires at least four drivers, but Gate Gourmet Toronto uses only two… ‘An aircraft has to leave a certain time. They can’t wait. So the drivers are responsible to run and rush to clear the flight.’” 

In the last three months alone seven hi-lift truck drivers sustained injuries that could have been avoided with proper staffing. Gate Gourmet has a history of unsafe working conditions. Most recently, the company was fined $58,000 after a worker lost their fingers during routine maintenance in 2013.

Gate Gourmet has so far refused to continue bargaining. Instead, the company has brought in scabs in the form of contract and management labour. The company said their goal was to “make clear to the union the consequences of a strike.”

This must be fought by extending the shutdown. Management must suffer “consequences” of their own for injuring workers, cutting wages and trying to break the union.

Beyond this, low wages and unsafe working conditions are the natural conclusion of the capitalist system where companies compete to pay their employees the lowest wages and make the highest profit. What’s required is workers across the entire airline industry and Canada to toss out  Gate Gourmet’s managers and take control of their workplaces. Only workers’ control can guarantee livable wages and safe working conditions.

Victory to Teamsters 647!

Picket lines mean do not cross!