A union representing several hundred baggage handlers at Pearson International Airport says their employer is bringing in poorly-trained temporary workers ahead of a looming strike deadline, in some cases compromising safety in sensitive areas of the airport.

Teamsters Local 419 president Harjinder Badial says that ahead of their July 24 contract deadline with their employer, Swissport Canada Handling, the company has hired as many as 250 temporary workers since May and put them into service in sensitive areas of Pearson without the proper training.

“Our members get three to four weeks of training, my understanding is Swissport is giving them three to four days of training,” Bardial said.

Bardial said in one instance, temporary workers left a ladder leaning against a parked plane, damaging the aircraft. In another instance, baggage destined for a plane was instead left unattended inside the terminal as the aircraft departed.

He added the union has taken its concerns to the Canada Industrial Relations Board and made a formal complaint.

In response, Swissport vice president of operations Pierre Payette told CP24 the temporary workers, about 100 of them, have been hired only to address the swell in demand that comes with the summer season.

He said the workers receive the exact same training as regular Swissport employees — nine days for baggage handlers — and more if workers have to come into close proximity to planes. He said safety is a “priority” for the firm.

Bardial said that the company has not hired temporary summer workers to meet increased demand in any of the previous 14 years he has worked at Pearson.

In the case of a strike, Payette said the company would hire more temporary workers.

He suggested the union is attempting to draw attention to the ongoing labour negotiation.

The two sides will continue negotiations at a meeting scheduled for July 21 and both sides are meeting with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority on July 17 to discuss the issue.