Robyn Benson, PSAC

Don't fly Porter!

COPE workers on strike.JPG

As we mark the sixth month of the strike by our administration and operational services workers’ at the St. John’s International Airport, let us spare a thought for our 22 sisters and brothers of COPE Local 343 who refuel planes for Porter Airlines on Toronto Island.

This is a young bargaining unit, having organized just a few months ago. In comparison to ours their strike is young, too: it began mid-January. But like many small strikes that don’t attract much media attention,  the members are being tested in the fire. Toronto police have been aggressive, even assaulting COPE Ontario Director Janice Best. And Toronto’s finest have been zealously joined by the Toronto Port Authority’s private security officers in trying to intimidate the strikers.

The Toronto Port Authority is the old stomping ground of our Minister of Labour, Lisa Raitt. Its Board is stuffed with Conservative party stalwarts, including Senator Pamela Wallin. Small world, eh?

The workers’ dispute with Porter is partly over pay, meagre in comparison with other airlines. Porter made an insulting offer of a 25-cent/hour raise for those making $12/hour, and not a cent for those making $14. It hasn’t budged from that position.

But the other issue, or collection of issues, is health and safety—the reason the members joined COPE in the first place. As COPE organizer Trish Qualtrough explains:

One account that resonated with me was that of a worker who was working alone on a night shift in the dead of winter. He had fallen outside injuring himself with no one around. He was lucky only because the next aircraft he was supposed to fuel happened to be an ORNGE Paramedic Helicopter whose medics found and assisted him. Otherwise, he could have been knocked unconscious on the tarmac until the morning shift arrived, five hours later.  He should not be doing his job alone or without any communication device with him.  This is just one of many situations in which these young workers were put at risk daily at Porter Airlines.

She goes on to note the primitive conditions in which these members have been forced to work:

The simple request of proper gloves had to be negotiated. Line service representatives are working with dangerous hazardous materials without proper protective clothing. …When workers have drawn fuel leaks to the attention of management their response has been “put a bucket under it.”

Perhaps it is small wonder that Porter Airlines has gone to court to prevent Transport Canada from releasing safety inspection reports.

And since the strike, ill-trained scabs have been assigned to do the members’ sensitive and hazardous duties. Still feel like flying Porter?

Labour Start has posted a petition to send a message to the airline. Show some solidarity with our sister union and go sign it.


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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on March 14, 2013 8:35 AM.

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