Follow-Up Letter from Sid Ryan to Porter Airlines President Robert Deluce

 

March 15, 2013

Robert J. Deluce
President and Chief Executive Officer
Porter Airlines
Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport
Toronto, ON M5V 1A1

Dear Robert Deluce,

Thank you for your recent response to our letter in support of striking COPE 343 members. Your attempt to discredit the strikers and their union, however, will not contribute to solving the ongoing labour dispute at Porter Airlines. You need to know that the Ontario Federation of Labour will continue to steadfastly support the strikers until a fair deal is reached.

These workers are not paid comparable wages, despite your claims to the contrary. As you know, refuellers at Porter earn $13.00 per hour in their second year of employment. Landmark Aviation pays those doing the same work at Pearson Airport $17.00 per hour in their second year. After the fourth year of employment, Landmark workers are paid $31.30 per hour, while after seven years the highest paid worker at Porter earns $16.00 per hour. These are poverty wages.

We believe that working should bring workers and their families out of poverty. Based on this principle a growing coalition is advocating for a decent minimum wage in Ontario. Minimum wage workers today earn $10.25 per hour and are living 19 percent below the poverty line. A minimum wage benchmarked at 10 percent above the poverty line would be $14 per hour, which is still well below a “living wage”. A living wage that enables a household with two working parents and two children to live adequately in Toronto was estimated to be $16.60 in 2008. Workers at Porter, along with all working people in Ontario, deserve a living wage.

Good jobs that allow workers to support themselves and their families are needed now more than ever before. A recent report by the United Way and McMaster University outlined that the rate of people in the GTA and Hamilton that are working in precarious jobs has increased by 50 percent in the last 20
years. This type of insecure, temporary, seasonal, casual, or short‐term work has negative social impacts on household wellbeing and community connections and magnifies the difficulties of supporting a household on low‐income. In addition to governments, employers like Porter Airlines have a responsibility to address this situation by providing their employees with dignified and secure employment.

We know that many of the striking workers at Porter are young people. The need for good jobs is particularly urgent for young Ontarians. Unfortunately, unpaid internships have become commonplace and when young people do find work it is more likely to be temporary or short‐term. The high‐turnover
and low pay at Porter is typical of the kind of employment that young people today are experiencing.

The status quo is unacceptable. The next generation deserves opportunities for meaningful employment.

Your claim that all health and safety issues have been resolved is also unfounded. The health and safety issues being raised are deeply troubling. They include requests as basic as proper protective clothing and fuel resistant gloves, as well as concerns about improper chemical storage and inadequate procedures in the event of spills and fuel leaks. Although health and safety issues had been agreed upon in bargaining before the time of the strike, this does not mean anything until an agreement is signed and ratified. The striking workers at Porter, along with all workers in Ontario, have the right to a healthy and safe workplace.

We can no longer allow the profits of large companies to be prioritized over the wellbeing of working people. As the number of Ontarians working in good, secure jobs decreases, inequality is also on the rise. Large corporations and a small wealthy elite are taking home an increasing share of our wealth,
while low and middle class families are falling behind. We need to raise the low‐wage floor so that no worker in Ontario gets left behind. We will stand by the low‐paid Porter workers who are out on strike until Porter Airlines goes back to the bargaining table and negotiates a fair deal.

As this strike continues, support for the workers is growing. Labeling the strikers’ supporters as “anti-airport activists” is deceptive. These activists have their own legitimate concerns that are distinct from our own. The labour movement’s primary concern is supporting the striking workers in their pursuit of
fair wages and a healthy and safe workplace. We recognize that their struggle is part of a broader struggle to defend workers’ rights in Ontario.

On March 11, the OFL coordinated a rally attended by over 300 supporters who successfully blocked the entrance of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport for about an hour. Three unions – the Canadian Autoworkers Union, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, and Ontario Secondary School
Teachers’ Federation – have also recently made substantial donations to the strikers amounting to more than $60,000. After the rally, CEP Local 79m also committed to “adopt a striker” by donating $250 a week. We will continue to make appeals to unions to “adopt a striker” and make financial contributions to ensure that the workers have the capacity to stay on strike for as long as it takes to get a fair contract.

The labour movement stands firmly in support of these striking workers and the OFL will continue to mobilize our membership until Porter Airlines meets its obligations to treat its workers with dignity and respect.

Sincerely,
SID RYAN
President

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COPE 343
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