Swissport contract flip may affect 150 jobs at Montreal Airport

Swissport equipment at Montreal International Airport
Photo Credit: CNW Group/Unifor

LONDON – Canadian union Unifor is concerned that a contract flip that resulted in Swissport losing its contract with Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) will potentially leave up to 150 members without jobs by the end of June.

“This is a prime example of what’s wrong at Canada’s airports. Contract flipping leads to the chaos we are seeing at airports across the country,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne.

“Each time a contract for an airport service flips, workers are forced to reapply for their job with the new company, often with significant wage cuts and reduced benefits.”

“It impacts workers’ mental health and pulls stability from under their feet. Many workers facing job insecurity find themselves forced to find other work. Airports need look no further than this race to the bottom practice to understand their labour force issues.”

Ground handlers’ contract

Last week, Swissport lost its contract after the Aéroports de Montréal put out a Request for Proposal (RPF) for ground handlers, but left the decision in the hands of a group of airlines operating out of the airport.

The airlines chose three companies – a Quebec-based non-unionized company called, Trans-Sol Aviation Service, and two ground handling companies, Menzies Aviation and French-based Samsic Airport, neither of which have operated out of Montreal airport.

Ground handlers perform above-the-wing work, which is customer service work, check-in, working at the gates and meeting inbound planes.

They are also responsible for loading and unloading customer baggage, freight and cargo to the aircraft and delivering passengers’ baggage to and from the aircraft to designated collection/drop off points.

About 50 Local 2002 members working in premium lounges at the Montreal airport will not be impacted.

A history of flips and buyouts

In the past 11 years, the Unifor ground handlers have endured a series of contract flips, buyouts, and employment changes, working for Handlex, Servisair and Swissport.

The practice of contract-flipping involves subcontracting out services and changing service providers every few years. The union says that it unjustly cut back on employees, reduce and stagnate wages and limits employees’ rights in order for the contracting company to save costs and increase profit.

Unifor has been lobbying the federal government in a public campaign to “Stop Contract Flipping at Canada’s Airports.”

“The federal government is really sticking its head in the sand and needs to expedite putting a plan together to address the underlying issues that are creating instability in the aviation industry,” said Leslie Dias, Unifor’s Director of Airlines.

“That instability creates precarious work for workers and unpleasant travel experiences for Canadians and international passengers.”

“The current regulations in Canada enables contract flipping to take place, because we have a deregulated air transportation environment that is failing, and this is just another example of that.”

Unifor aviation sector representation

Unifor currently represents 16,000 members across Canada in the aviation sector, including 550 members who work for Swissport.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy.

The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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