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Get paid on Thursday, food bank on Friday

Airport Authority profits from cleaners' low wages, says Union

by Robert Devet

Earlier this month the Eurest cleaners, members of Teamsters Canada, together with other airport workers rallied at the airport to tell the Airport Authority to step up. Now they want your help. Photo Trevor Beckerson, Facebook
Earlier this month the Eurest cleaners, members of Teamsters Canada, together with other airport workers rallied at the airport to tell the Airport Authority to step up. Now they want your help. Photo Trevor Beckerson, Facebook

Words that we hope describe our airport are: happy, helpful, courteous, caring and kind. This is “The Stanfield Way” of doing business. Halifax Stanfield International Airport website

(KJIPUKTUK) HALIFAX - Cleaners and maintenance workers at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, employees of Eurest Services, regularly rely on food banks to make it through the week.

That's what happens when you make just a bit above minimum wage.

The workers are members of Teamsters Canada Local 927. Their collective agreement expired in the spring of 2014 and they have been in a legal strike position for the last three months.

Wages and benefits are their number one concern.

Rob Beairsto, President of the Local, thinks that the problem lies not just with the company the cleaners work for.

The Halifax International Airport Authority, the entity that manages the airport infrastructure, needs to take ownership of the issue, he says.

“Eurest Services tells us that there is no money in these cleaning contracts,” Beairsto tells the Halifax Media Co-op.

“They tell us that they're bidding against companies that only pay minimum wage and that the couple of sick days a year and the 25 cents or 50 cents over minimum wage they fork out is really straining them,” he says.

That's why Beairsto is now knocking of the doors of the Airport Authority.

He wants the Authority to impose fairness standards on the companies that bid for these cleaning contracts.

“The Authority should say (to facility management companies) that if you want to bid, you have to guarantee a couple of dollars above minimum wage,” he suggests.

“And you need to have a 75 percent prescription plan. These people are dealing with infections from all over the world. They get sick, but they can't afford a prescription.”

So far the Airport Authority isn't listening.

Neither the Board of Directors nor President and CEO Joyce Carter have been able to meet with him, he says.

The Director of Operations told Baeirsto that this is not an Airport Authority issue. It's strictly between the union and Eurest.

And in an email to the Halifax Media Co-op Peter Spurway, Vice President Corporate Communications & Airport Experience, writes that since the Airport Authority is not a party to the collective bargaining process, it would be inappropriate to intervene.

To Beairsto that sounds a bit like the garment industry distancing itself from child labour and sweatshops in the countries where the clothes it sells are made.

“Don't forget that these cleaners are the ones that help you win all those international awards,” he says.

“I think the Airport Authority is charged with the safety and the welfare not only of the traveling public but also of anybody working on the site,” says Beairsto. “The Authority can affect change simply by waving its wand.”

The Eurest cleaners would appreciate it you were to raise their plight with the Airport Authority. Contact information for management can be found here. Or you can send an email to info@hiaa.ca

Follow Robert DeVet on Twitter


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