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Striking food service workers at Toronto's Pearson airport say meals on some flights may be impacted by labour action

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Some flights may be departing from Toronto Pearson International Airport with “less or no food” after workers who prepare meals for in-flight service walked off the job on Tuesday, the union representing employees says.

Teamsters Local Union 647, which represents more than 800 workers with airline catering company Gate Gourmet, said employees began striking at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday after members rejected the final offer from the company.

“Our members accepted a wage freeze during the pandemic to help this company survive. Now their managers brag about how profitable their operations have become at Pearson, while proposing wage increases as low as 89 cents an hour,” Martin Cerqua, lead union negotiator and president of Local Union 647, said in a written statement.

Workers were seen on the picket line outside of Gate Gourmet on Britannia Road East in Mississauga on Tuesday morning.

In a statement released Monday, the union said the labour dispute will be “highly disruptive,” noting that Air Canada will be “most affected by the strike.”

Air Canada said that it has developed contingency plans to mitigate the impact of the strike.

In a statement to CP24, the airline said it expects “no impact” on international flights but some adjustments will be made to food and beverage service on certain North American flights departing from Toronto.

In some cases on shorter routes, Air Canada said, adjustments will also need to be made to flights returning to Toronto from other cities.

Short-haul flights of less than two hours are “most impacted,” the company said, and customers will be advised “directly” of any changes to food and beverage service.

For flights over two hours within North America, customers in signature class, business class, and premium economy class will be served hot meals but with fewer menu options. Pre-ordering will be suspended and special meal offerings will be limited to Kosher.

“Passengers with dietary restrictions are advised to plan ahead,” Air Canada said.

In economy class, snack and beverage service will be provided with Air Canada Bistro items and alcoholic beverages available for purchase.

For flights under two hours within North America, hot meals will no longer be offered in business class and service will be adjusted to include a “snack basket” and water service. In economy class, passengers will be provided with a packaged light snack along with water, the airline said.

The union said other airlines impacted by the strike include United Airlines, Delta Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, Air India, Aero Mexico, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Jetlines, and WestJet. 

Last week, WestJet said it had also taken steps to mitigate a potential strike.

“…our Catering Team has proactively prepared contingency plans to mitigate impact to WestJet's operations in Toronto, to ensure we can continue providing food and beverage for our guests onboard our aircraft,” a spokesperson told CP24.

In a statement sent out Monday, Gate Gourmet said operations across Canada and globally “remain unaffected.”

“Gate Gourmet Canada encourages our valued employees to vote in favour of the final offer (presented to them at the Union’s request) which we believe addresses their expressed desires regarding wages, benefits, and working conditions at the unit — including a 12% pay raise over three years,” the statement read.

“At our operation in Toronto, we have established contingency plans with our airline customers to minimize any impact on them and their passengers.”

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