YVR Food Workers Strike

YVR Food Workers Strike


Welcome to our blog where we dive deep into the latest updates and coverage surrounding the Vancouver Airport (YVR) Food Workers Strike. The impending strike is a pivotal event that could potentially disrupt services at YVR, one of Canada’s busiest airports, especially during the critical spring break and Easter travel rush. With more than 200 food service workers at the brink of walking off their jobs, travelers and the airport community alike are holding their breath as negotiations seem to have reached an impasse. The heart of the matter? A substantial discrepancy in wages and living conditions for these workers, against the backdrop of rising living costs in Metro Vancouver. Let’s unpack the situation.

The Vote for Strike Action

In a decisive move, food service workers at YVR, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, have overwhelmingly voted in favor of strike action. The decision didn’t come lightly, with a staggering 85% of its members voting in support. This vote came after months of negotiations with employer SSP Canada Food Services hit a deadlock. The reason? A call for fair wages that match Metro Vancouver’s living wage, amidst increasing living costs. It’s a bold step for more than 200 workers, emphasizing their call for economic justice and a dignified living standard, reflective of the pivotal role they play in the bustling hub of YVR.

The Financial Disparity

The union sheds light on a stark disparity – the average food service worker at YVR earns $18.27 an hour, substantially lower than the Metro Vancouver’s living wage of $25.68. This wage gap becomes even more glaring when considering the airport’s financials, with YVR generating $492 million in 2022 alone. Furthermore, a survey conducted by the union paints a grim picture of the workers’ day-to-day struggles. A majority report grappling with bills and housing costs, compromising on essentials like fresh food, and being unable to support their families as before.

The Implications of a Strike

The timing of the potential strike raises the stakes, with it coinciding with one of YVR’s busiest periods – the spring break and Easter weekend, expected to see over 1.1 million passengers. The workers, a mix of women and immigrants, have been a crucial part of YVR’s operations, serving travelers across domestic and international terminals. Their absence could significantly disrupt daily airport operations, affecting countless travelers and highlighting the critical nature of their roles.

Stay tuned as we continue to cover this unfolding story, bringing you the latest news and updates on the YVR Food Workers Strike.

Background of the Strike

The heart of the issue at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) stems from the food service workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, who have overwhelmingly voted in favor of strike action. This bold move comes after prolonged negotiations with their employer, SSP Canada Food Services, reached a deadlock. A significant 85 per cent endorsement of the strike reflects the workers’ urgent call for better wage conditions, signaling a serious crisis in the making. The union highlights that, despite months of bargaining, over 200 low-paid workers stand ready to walk off the job in pursuit of wages that match Metro Vancouver’s standard of living.

Key Reasons for the Strike

At the core of the strike are economic issues that paint a broader picture of the financial disparity facing many of these workers. The union’s data points to a glaring wage gap, showing that the average food service wage at the airport is a mere $18.27, starkly contrasting Metro Vancouver’s living wage of $25.68. This discrepancy comes amidst reports of YVR Airport generating a whopping $492 million in revenue in 2022, with expectations to surpass this figure in 2023. Despite these financial successes, workers find themselves struggling to keep up with the basic costs of living, making the call for a fair wage all the more imperative.

Demographics of the Workforce Affected

A closer look into the demographics of the workers affected by this issue reveals a workforce majorly composed of women and immigrants. These groups are primarily fighting for a living wage that would enable them to manage the rising cost of living and effectively support their families in the region. This diversity underscores a broader societal challenge, highlighting the intersection of labor rights, immigration, and gender in the workforce.

Potential Impact of the Strike

Possible Disruptions During Spring Break and Easter

The timing of the proposed strike action aligns with one of the busiest travel periods of the year, encompassing spring break and Easter weekend. With more than 1.1 million passengers expected to pass through YVR during these periods, the potential strike poses a significant risk of major service disruptions. The food service workers serve travelers across dozens of outlets in both the domestic and international terminals, making their presence crucial to the airport’s daily operations.

The Financial Strain on Workers

On a personal level, the workers behind the strike face substantial financial strain. A survey conducted by the union paints a bleak picture: 89% of YVR food service workers struggle to keep up with their bills or housing costs, with many forced to cut back on essentials such as fresh food and familial support. The fight for a living wage is not just about economic fairness; it’s about survival.

Repercussions on Airport Operations

The potential strike at YVR stands to have wide-ranging repercussions on airport operations. Beyond the immediate inconvenience to travelers, the strike underscores critical issues within the broader labor market at airports. The workers’ demand for a living wage highlights the stark wage disparities present in the sector, pointing to a need for a systemic overhaul in how wages are structured. As the workforce, primarily composed of women and immigrants, pushes back against these disparities, the implications go beyond YVR, signaling a potential wake-up call for airports and related services nationwide to reevaluate their compensation strategies.

Responses to the Strike

Union and Worker Demands

The heart of the strike by food service workers at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, is a plea for living wages and improved working conditions. Union data has highlighted the significant wage gap, showing the average food service wage at YVR to be $18.27, glaringly below Metro Vancouver’s living wage of $25.68. This wage shortfall comes against the backdrop of YVR’s financial success, with the airport generating $492 million in 2022, and projections pointing towards an even more fruitful 2023. The demands have further been framed by the startling statistics from a union-conducted survey, revealing that 89% of YVR food service workers are struggling to keep up with bills or housing costs. Additionally, a substantial number of workers are reportedly unable to afford fresh food and support for their families, exacerbating the urgency for wage adjustment and additional benefits like transit reimbursement programs.

SSP Canada Food Services and Vancouver International Airport’s Statements

In response to the vote for strike action and the demands of the food service workers, both SSP Canada Food Services and YVR have issued statements. SSP Canada voiced its commitment to negotiations, emphasizing the company’s dedication to “providing consistent and world-class service” and acknowledging the “valuable contribution” of its employees. The company expressed its intent to continue negotiations in good faith with Unite Here Local 40 to find an agreement fair to all parties. Meanwhile, YVR clarified its position as not being a party to the negotiations but expressed hope for a mutually beneficial agreement to be reached between SSP Canada Food Services and the union.

Negotiation Stalemates and Efforts

Despite the willingness expressed by SSP Canada to engage in negotiations, the discussion between the food service workers’ union and the employer has seen little progress, leading to the strike action vote. The union has been vocal about its frustration over stalled bargaining efforts, citing months of unproductive negotiations aiming to secure a living wage for the workers. In light of the impasse, the concept of a strike has served as a tactical measure to apply pressure and prompt more serious negotiations, with the hope of achieving a resolution that acknowledges the financial needs of the workers.

Broader Implications

Living Wage Challenges in Metro Vancouver

The strike at YVR underscores a larger, more systemic issue of living wage challenges within Metro Vancouver. The disparity between the current wages of food service workers at YVR and the calculated living wage in the region speaks to broader economic pressures faced by low-income workers in one of Canada’s most expensive living environments. This situation mirrors the financial strain experienced by numerous employees across various sectors, struggling to cover basic living expenses against the backdrop of rising costs of living, housing affordability crises, and the inadequacy of minimum wage levels to meet actual living costs.

The Role of Transit Reimbursement Programs

The demand by UNITE HERE Local 40 for the reinstatement of transit reimbursement programs is a significant aspect of the broader conversation on worker support and welfare. Given the odd hours and the airport’s location, such programs represent a critical support system for workers, reducing commuting costs and providing safer, more reliable transportation options. The elimination of these programs not only increases the financial burden on already underpaid workers but also demonstrates a disconnect between employers’ policies and the practical realities faced by their workforce.

Comparisons to Other Canadian Airports and Industries

The strike action at YVR and the demands from its food service workers draw attention to the need for a comparative analysis with other Canadian airports and industries. Such a comparison may reveal differences in how worker demands, especially regarding living wages and added benefits, are addressed and negotiated across sectors and regions. It can potentially spotlight best practices or more equitable approaches in worker compensation and benefits, advocating for industry-wide reforms that acknowledge and address the financial realities and demands of today’s workforce.


The imminent strike by YVR food service workers has highlighted a critical issue facing many workers in high-cost living areas like Metro Vancouver. The dispute revolves around workers striving for a living wage of $25.68 per hour against the backdrop of their current average wage of $18.27. This disparity is not just a number but a reflection of the struggle faced by many to meet basic life needs amid rising costs. The timing of this potential strike, coinciding with the spring break and Easter rush, underscores the urgency and gravity of the situation. It throws into sharp relief the broader conversation on fair wages and the stark realities of those working behind the scenes in bustling hubs like Vancouver International Airport.

The participation of over 1.1 million passengers traveling through YVR during this period has set the stage for a significant impact, should the strike go ahead. This is a moment of reckoning not only for the workers and SSP Canada Food Services but also for travelers and the broader community. As negotiations continue, it’s clear that the outcome of this dispute will have ramifications beyond the airport terminals, touching on issues of economic disparity, the cost of living, and the value we place on labor in essential service sectors.

In solidarity, UNITE HERE Local 40, representing the food service workers, has been vociferous in highlighting the concerns of its members, ranging from wage issues to the reinstatement of a transit reimbursement program. Their fight is emblematic of a larger movement for workers’ rights and equitable wages, resonant with the struggles of many low-paid workers across different sectors.

As we await further developments, it’s crucial for travelers, the community, and stakeholders to remain informed and supportive of meaningful resolutions. The hope is for a fair settlement that recognizes the invaluable contributions of YVR food service workers while ensuring the continued smooth operation of one of Canada’s busiest airports. The coming days are pivotal, not just for those directly involved but for all of us in understanding the intersection between labor rights and economic sustainability.