Food service workers rally for better pay at YVR

YVR’s food workers held a rally at the airport Friday, saying they deserve to be paid a living wage.

Their union, Unite Here! Local 40, represents about 300,000 workers in hospitality — airport and food services — many of whom are immigrant or First Nation women.

Unite Here! says nearly 2,000 airport workers signed a petition calling on the Vancouver Airport Authority to ensure they are paid $25 per hour — the living wage in Metro Vancouver.

“They were recently rated the top airport, not just in Canada, but North America, and they are a certified living wage employer,” said union representative Sharan Pawa.

“Now all of this sounds great, but there are some groups at the airport that are not covered by this living wage policy. That includes food service workers, which we represent, also retail workers, and other groups who we found are earning minimum wage, or just above minimum wage.”

But the Vancouver Airport Authority says it has no role to play in union negotiations with the company that operates food service businesses at the airport. Unite Here! Local 40 is currently in bargaining with SSP Canada, which runs food outlets at the airport.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh came out to the airport, saying he was there in support of the workers.

“There’s a policy here, and there’s a loophole,” Singh said. “The fact that some workers earn a living wage and others don’t is wrong. We want every worker at the airport to have a living wage.”

The airport authority says it is an advocate for a living wage, but SSP just leases space at YVR to run its business. It says it’s up to each organization to choose to pay a living wage, and negotiations are strictly between the company and the union.

With files from Maria Vinca and The Canadian Press.