Vancouver Airport worker fired after signing petition for living wage

PV staff  

Vancouver Airport (YVR) operator MGM Food Services is the focus of a human rights complaint and an online campaign after it fired an airport food worker after she signed a public petition calling for a living wage for workers at YVR.

Ann John was employed at MGM’s A&W outlet in YVR’s international terminal for over a year and a half, and consistently received positive feedback for her work. On April 4, John and hundreds more workers at YVR signed a petition to YVR CEO Tamara Vrooman asking for a $25 living wage for all airport workers.

MGM Food Services had discouraged their staff from signing the petition, claiming it was “misleading people with false promises.” Company management held an all-employee meeting and asked who had signed, where they learned that John had signed and encouraged others to do so. Two weeks later, John was denied entry at the start of her shift and was fired, with managers saying that she was “not a good fit for the company.”

A statement from UNITE HERE Local 40 quoted John as saying, “I don’t earn a living wage, and I struggle to make ends meet. I know that my co-workers struggle too. I believed in the cause, and I signed the petition, because better wages could really help myself and the people around me. MGM said I wasn’t a good fit, but in my opinion, the real reason they fired me was that I signed the petition.”

Vancouver Airport Authority is a certified living wage employer, meaning that the airport has publicly committed to paying wages that “reflect the true costs of living in a community and that parents can earn what they need to support their families.” The organization which certifies employers, Living Wage for Families BC, says that a living wage in the Metro Vancouver area is $25.68.

However, Local 40 says that over a thousand food service and retail workers at the airport are not covered by YVR’s living wage policy. Moreover, the union says that the policy doesn’t apply to many women and racialized workers.

“Workers who are included in YVR’s living wage policy are mostly white and mostly men. Workers excluded from the policy are mostly women of colour…and when they stand up for change, they lose their job?” stated Local 40 president Zailda Chan. “We are very concerned about how this non-union employee was treated by an airport operator, and YVR’s lack of interest in protecting workers’ rights.”

Ann John herself is an immigrant to Canada and working toward her permanent resident status. She is seeking reinstatement and compensation for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect.

UNITE HERE Local 40 says in a public statement that “the only possible reason for firing [John] is her support for YVR workers’ demand for living wages. This is unacceptable retaliation against a worker for standing up for her rights!”

The union has launched an online campaign calling for the Airport Authority to ensure than John is reinstated to her position and to cut ties with MGM Food Services for its actions.

[Photo: UNITE HERE Local 40]

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