After over a year of contract negotiations, food service workers at Victoria International Airport say there is still no deal, and they demonstrated outside the arrivals hall to bring attention to the issue.
Octavian Cadabeschi, a research analyst with UNITE HERE Local 40 (which represents the airport’s food service workers), said the workers contend with low wages, chronic understaffing and high workloads. The demonstration was meant to raise awareness for airport guests and the rest of the public.
“We’re reaching out to the airport to say, look, something has to be done about this. This is a major issue,” said Cadebeschi.
Food service at the airport is contracted to Compass Group Canada, so the union is currently negotiating with Compass, but because Compass was chosen by the VAA, the union wants the VAA to speak with Compass as well.
“[Workers] are really fighting to get a new standard where these jobs are turned into good jobs, like a lot of other airport jobs are,” said Cadebeschi. “So Compass has really not been getting that message at all.”
Geoff Dickson, President and CEO of the Victoria Airport Authority, said it was an issue best resolved behind closed doors between Compass and the union.
“I’m confident that the two parties can reach an agreement that’s mutually agreeable to both,” said Dickson.
In a statement to the PNR, Compass Group Canada said they are currently in negotiations with UNITE HERE Local 40, and are currently working with the union to identify dates to meet with a mediator.
“Our goal and hope is to continue to move negotiations forward and we remain committed to reaching a settlement that is mutually satisfactory to all parties,” read the statement.
Mark Atkins, a cook at Spinnakers On The Fly, said the union has members working overtime “every single day,” skipping breaks and coming in sick due to overstaffing.
“We’re not here for minimum wage. We do more than a minimum wage job. We’re folks who deserve a decent wage for a decent job,” he said, adding airport workers are community members as well who live, work, and spend money in the area.
Food service workers on their break joined the demonstration, along with members from other unions representing postal workers, provincial and municipal workers, and Camosun College workers.
Victoria city councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday were also at the rally, along with council hopeful Sharmarke Dubow. Isitt said he was there to support the workers and ramp up pressure on management to reach a fair settlement without delay.
“All working people have the right to a living wage and fairness at work,” said Isitt, “and I’m very concerned about the delay in reaching a fair settlement with the employees at the airport.”
The City of Victoria (like the three Saanich Peninsula municipalities, the CRD and the provincial government) have citizen representatives on the VAA’s board, so Isitt said they had a stake in how the airport is run.
“I’ll be supporting them until they have a fair deal,” said Isitt.