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Striking Pearson ground crew vote against new offer

Last Updated Aug 24, 2017 at 6:26 pm EDT

Striking ground crew workers at Canada’s busiest airport have voted overwhelmingly to reject the latest offer from their employer and will continue a four-week-long work stoppage.

A spokesman for Teamsters Union Local 419 says the workers employed by Swissport vote 98 per cent to reject a new contract after turning down an offer by a wide margin in late July.

“The first offer was rejected by 95 per cent so this is actually a stronger rejection,” said union spokesman Christopher Monette.

“Swissport’s second offer to our members was almost identical to the first one. All they did was change a few details.”

The company said they were “disappointed” by the vote.

“We are disappointed by the outcome of the vote,” Swissport said in a statement on Thursday.

“From the start, we provided an offer that is well above what our direct competitors in ground handling at Pearson Airport provide to their employees. We went a step further, on August 20, by presenting conciliations to the union that would address specific concerns and still allow Swissport to operate in a sustainable way and on a long-term basis in Toronto,” the statement read.

About 700 cabin cleaners, baggage handlers, and other ground crew workers employed by Swissport at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport have been on strike since late July.

Swissport services 30 airlines at the airport, including Air Transat, Sunwing Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa. Air Canada and WestJet are not serviced by Swissport.

The ground crew strike has not significantly affected passengers, although the airport has been warning travellers that the labour disruption could affect some flights.

Terms of the latest offer were not released but the company had said it was optimistic the workers would accept the deal.

Their concerns have included pay and benefits cuts, scheduling issues, and what their union calls a lack of respect from Swissport managers.

“We’re dealing with a company that is proposing and doing the same thing over and over expecting different results and that’s a slap in the face really to our workers,” said Monette.

“This lack of respect was evident in the company’s first and second offers. They wanted to impose a three-year wage freeze on workers at the top of the wage scale. The problem is that’s actually the majority of workers at Swissport.”

Swissport said thier “business continuity plan will remain in place. To our customers and partners at the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, we thank you for helping us move people safely and efficiently through YYZ.”

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