By Dan Janssen
May 29th marked 15 years for me as a worker at Lester B. Pearson International Airport. I love my job loading aircraft with bags and cargo, sending them on their way to far off destinations around the world. Best part about my job is my co-workers and friends. We have fun at work and do our best to enjoy every day. There are many positions at the airport and we all play a critical role to ensure passengers and their belongings arrive safely and efficiently at their destinations.
For the first eleven years of my career I had to work two jobs, something many of my coworkers also have to do to just to make ends meet. It wasn’t until I turned 30 that I had the opportunity to leave my part time job as cabinet salesman. With my newfound spare time I decided to get involved with my union. Working with the union gave me a voice, a voice for my friends and co-workers. Now, four years past and I find myself working with a group that has a much louder voice. The Toronto Airport Workers’ Council stands up on issues that affect our workplace as a whole, bringing light to workers’ rights and fighting for a better, safer workplace, ultimately playing an active role in the larger labour movement. The Airport Workers’ Council is made up of union leaders and activists from the various union groups representing workers at YYZ. We have been active in pushing for a $15 living wage, as well as initiating changes in workplace safety. We have also been actively pushing back against the recent contract flipping of the wheelchairs, the de-ice work, and the Consolidated fuelling contracts.
In the U.S., Airports like LAX and SFO have protocols in place that protect workers, giving succession rights when contracts move from one employer to the next. This allows workers to continue to make gains through collective bargaining and gain seniority over time. In Toronto, meanwhile, workers are being taken advantage of. New employers win the contracts and then offer lower wages with substandard benefit packages. They also are able to pick and choose the employees they decide to hire, often discarding injured workers or workers that were active in the union or that brought up safety issues.
When the Airport Workers’ Council discussed taking action on behalf of the Consolidated Fuel workers, we decided we should be proactive by sending an open letter to Howard Eng, the President and CEO of the GTAA. We want him to step in to help these and other workers and to stop the race to the bottom that is currently happening at our airport.
There is still time for these workers as the contract expires on October 1, 2015. The Workers’ Council will continue to be proactive and support these workers right up to the deadline.
Dan Janssen is Vice President of IAMAW LL2323, Toronto Airport Workers Council. A complete version of the letter sent to GTAA President and CEO, Howard Eng, can be downloaded here.