Catering workers who serve dozens of airlines flying out of Vancouver International Airport have issued a 72-hour strike notice, according to their union.
Unite Here Local 40 says it filed the strike notice on Wednesday after employees of Gate Gourmet voted 98 per cent in favour of job action.
"I think everyone is aware of the historic inflation that we're seeing in the Lower Mainland, and people are just looking for increases that can allow them to keep up with the cost of living," Unite Here Local 40 organizer Mike Biskar said on CBC's The Early Edition.
"These are not workers who work directly for the airlines. They are contracted by the airlines to work for four companies, and these are low-wage jobs."
He said most people make about $17 an hour while senior employees make $26 an hour. He said employees are asking for a six per cent increase in the first year and a four per cent increase next year.
"That's what the union is proposing, and with inflation at nine per cent, that's not going to allow people to keep up," said Biskar.
The workers prepare in-flight meals, assemble them onto trays, load flight attendant trolleys and deliver them to the aircraft. If the workers strike, major airlines, including Air Canada, Air France and KLM would be affected, according to a news release from the union.
"Airline catering workers have been working day-in and day-out, serving travellers through the pandemic. As tourism came back this year and consumer prices hit 31-year highs, we are overworked and underpaid," tray assembly worker and union bargaining committee member Kiran Hundal said in the release.
"We've attempted to address these issues in good faith with the company, but they continue to propose low wage increases and cuts to our health benefits."
Biskar says employees are asking for a six per cent increase
The release says layoffs during the pandemic caused significant staffing shortages that have yet to be resolved, even though air travel is surging again.
In a written statement, Gate Gourmet spokesperson David Taylor said the company is committed to negotiating a new agreement as soon as possible to prevent serious disruptions to service.
"Contrary to a public statement made by a union representative, Gate Gourmet is not seeking concessions on existing benefits. The company has offered an increase in the overall compensation package for its employees," Taylor said.
He added that the union and the company have agreed to continue negotiations in August.