Press Release: Low-wage women of colour lose out under YVR Airport’s living wage policy, according to new report 

Hundreds of airport concession workers not covered by airport living wage policy

Vancouver – YVR Airport’s living wage policy should be expanded to cover low-wage airport concession workers who serve travelers inside the terminals of Canada’s top airport, according to a new report.

Airport concession workers are among the lowest paid workers at YVR Airport.  Eighty percent (80%) of them are women of colour, many of them immigrants, who earn far below Metro Vancouver’s living wage of $25.68, according to a new report, Who Deserves a Living Wage at YVR Airport, by UNITE HERE Local 40.  The airport is a certified living wage employer, yet the average hourly wage for concession staff is $18.27, or $7.41 less than the airport living wage.

Roughly 2,500 out of the nearly 30,000 workers at the airport and on Sea Island are covered by YVR Airport’s living wage policy.  The existing policy covers over 900 Vancouver Airport Authority employees, the majority of whom are male and predominantly white. The policy also covers certain contractors, including those providing janitorial and security services inside the terminals and traffic management services.  The policy does not extend to airport concession staff, such as cashiers, attendants, servers, cooks, dishwashers, and others who work behind the food and retail counters a few floors down from Vancouver Airport Authority offices in the same building.

As YVR Airport’s revenues have largely recovered from the pandemic, the pay gap between Vancouver Airport Authority’s top executives and concession workers has widened.  Airport Authority CEO Tamara Vrooman earned a total compensation package of $2.2 million, up from $1.9 million the previous year, while the average full-time concession worker earned $36,000 in annual pay. The pay ratio between the Airport Authority’s CEO and an average full-time airport concession worker is 59:1, an income gap that grew last year.

Nearly 89% of concession workers surveyed reported that they are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living. Over half, or 53%, reported having to cut back on family support for their immediate or extended family. Others reported cutting back on fresh food and medical care. Thirty percent (30%) of workers reported working more than one job.

Workers also cited having to cut back on transit costs. Vancouver Airport Authority terminated its transit reimbursement policy earlier this year which subsidized transit for those who work outside regular transit hours.

Airport concession workers have been actively advocating for a $25 living wage recently. This month, workers from YVR dining outlets operated by SSP Group issued 72-hour strike notice over concerns that wages need to be significantly raised to afford the cost of living.

A worker from an A&W airport outlet operated by MGM Food Services was terminated after she signed a petition calling for a $25 airport living wage and encouraged co-workers to sign. During a meeting, an MGM manager asked employees if they signed the petition and discovered that the worker had done so. Two weeks later, management fired the worker telling her she was “not a good fit for the company” despite having worked there for nearly for two years with no issues. The petition was signed by nearly 2,000 people and sent to the Airport Authority CEO.

“Vancouver Airport Authority should extend its living wage policy to cover the lowest paid workers at YVR Airport, most of them immigrant women, who provide an essential role at our airport.  While airport workers are struggling to stay afloat in an incredibly unaffordable city, YVR’s airport executives are doing better than ever.  No worker should fear losing their job because they demand a living wage. The Airport Authority has the power to do more to ensure workers can work with dignity and fair pay at YVR Airport,” said Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40.

To address economic inequality at YVR Airport, the report recommends that Vancouver Airport Authority:

  • Implement a $25 living wage policy for airport concession staff who earn less than a living wage.
  • Terminate contracts with operators who discriminate or violate the fundamental rights of workers.
  • Bring back the YVR transit reimbursement program for airport workers arriving or departing work outside regular transit hours.

 

Media Contact: Michelle Travis, mtravis@unitehere.org, 778-960-9785.