On Airport Workers Day, Unifor calls on air transport industry to improve working conditions

Main Image
Glass sliding doors peering into an airport terminal

On June 26, Unifor celebrates the inaugural Airport Workers Day, organized by the Canadian Airports Council (CAC), which shows appreciation for airport workers across Canada.

We want to honour the 16,000 skilled and dedicated Unifor air transportation members who work tirelessly, going the extra mile, whether it’s maintaining and operating airport facilities, security, checking passengers in at the kiosk, handling baggage, and being wayfinders for passengers when they land, directing traffic, piloting the aircraft, attending to passengers in flight or maintaining the aircraft. The union also thanks the many other aviation workers providing outstanding services, day after day.

They all play an integral role in connecting people to communities and Canadians to the world. As the CAC beautifully puts it, “Air transportation is only possible because of a dynamic network of specialists working diligently in concert to ensure the safe and seamless movement of people and goods.”

Beautifully written statements are nice, but showing appreciation for air transport workers requires more than words. These workers need better working conditions and the industry needs to take action now.

Unifor’s Air Transportation Workers’ Charter of Rights lays out nine concrete changes the government, airports and the whole industry need to make to truly show that air transportation workers are appreciated.

Workers in the sector need fair wages with the requirement of a living wage. They need fair scheduling practices and the opportunity to work one full-time job instead of multiple part-time ones to make ends meet. 

Airport workers need to finally see an end to the worst effects of contract flipping through the implementation of full-successor rights. Workers need to be consulted and have meaningful input to ensure technological change improves service and doesn’t make working conditions worse. 

Employers in this sector need to stop phoning it in on training and actually create robust, skills development programs that combine multiple methods of learning including on-the-job training and class-room style programs where appropriate. 

Airports, airlines, and governments continue to underestimate the value and complexity of the work air transport workers perform. Senior workers should not be informally relied upon to pick up the slack for newer workers who have not been properly trained. 

Air transport workers need a working environment that is free from harassment by customers and colleagues. Employers need to reduce the number of disgruntled passengers that workers face daily by reversing their overreliance on understaffing and instead, providing passengers the service they deserve. 

Finally, workers need safe reporting mechanisms that are free from reprisal in order to report unsafe business practices to create a healthier and safer workplace environment.

Workers appreciate the sentiment behind Airport Workers Day. It’s about time the industry started to publicly recognize workers for the valuable contributions they make. 

Airports, airlines, and governments need to follow this up with concrete action to improve working conditions and the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people who keep the industry moving. 

On Airport Workers Day, the CAC will hold appreciation events for their airport workforce and community, with a theme of “Moving What Matters.”

Unifor believes what matters now as we spotlight this important day is for the airports, airlines, and the Canadian government to adopt the union’s framework for better working conditions already laid out for them. 

It’s time to get our aviation industry working for everyone— workers and travellers.

After all, our working conditions are your travel conditions.