When Mark Atkins was hired as a lead cook at Spinnakers On The Fly at the Victoria International Airport three years ago, he took the offer because it was a good paying, union job for a role he has more than 20 years of experience in.
Atkins initially signed a contract to work for $16.59 per hour. Now the father of a 9-month-old son with his wife, he makes $18.09 an hour.
“In those three years, cost of living has sky rocketed,” he says, “and the power of the dollar I’m earning has gone down significantly.”
Food service workers from @UniteHere40 who work at the Victoria Intâl Airport demonstrate inside @Fly_YYJ asking for fair pay for fair work – been at this since June 2017 with radio silence on the part of the Airport Authority #YYJ pic.twitter.com/DjnlnpDW82
— Peninsula News (@PeninsulaNews) November 14, 2018
Atkins was part of a group of food service workers who demonstrated at the airport Wednesday, for the second time in four months, to bring awareness to the stalemate they face with their employer Compass Group Canada, after a year-and-a-half of attempts to negotiate for better wages, more staff and a balanced workload.
Food service at the airport is contracted to Compass Group Canada, so the union, UNITE HERE Local 40, is currently negotiating with Compass.
But because Compass was chosen by the VAA, the union wants the VAA to speak with Compass as well, because it does not guarantee jobs security should the VAA choose not to renew it.
“A lot of folks here work for minimum wage, which is awful. Minimum wage is not enough to live in this place,” he says of the Capital Region, adding many of his colleagues commute to Sidney from across Greater Victoria.
“The whole point of having a good wage is to compensate for those things,” he says.
Rod Hunchak, director of business development and community relations with the VAA, said the contract they have with Compass is “for the delivery of goods and services at the airport.”
Terms and conditions including service levels are included in the contract between the two companies, and is where VAA maintains their focus.
Because the VAA does not supervise Compass employees, he said it would be “inappropriate” to engage directly with them.
“It was explained to them that really they need to be having their discussions with Compass and not the Airport Authority,” he explained. “Their efforts should really be spent with the collective bargaining process.”
Atkins says he and the union have reached out multiple times since June 2017, writing letters to multiple branches of the VAA and have heard nothing in response.
“We are hard working people,” he says. “We’re proud of what we do here, we want to stay at the airport, but we need to have decent job security.”
Calls to Compass Group Canada were not returned before deadline. On the Mississauga-based company’s website, it says revenues for 2017 were $17 billion (US).
– With files from Hugo Wong