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YVR caterer loses appeal against cease and desist order for scabbing

Workers at Gate Gourmet went on strike last summer before reaching a deal in November
Dozens of unionized catering workers held a quick demonstration at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) on July 27 and issued a 72-hour strike notice.

A caterer operating out of Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has lost its appeal against a cease and desist order after using scabs on Air Canada flights.

Workers at Gate Gourmet Canada went on strike through an overtime ban on its YVR operations for around 20 days last August to demand better pay.

Gate Gourmet is a Canadian subsidiary of Swiss company Gategroup with a head office in Ontario and operates out of YVR and international airports in Alberta and Ontario.

Workers, represented by UNITE Here Local 40, and the company ultimately reached an agreement for a 12 per cent wage increase in November 2022.

During the strike, Gate Gourmet was caught using illegal replacement workers for certain Air Canada flights and received a cease and desist from the Labour Relations Board (LRB) in October.

The company had double-catered said flights outside of B.C., which involved loading enough food and drinks for both outbound and return flights on the same aircraft.

Although double-catering was typical in the business, it took place on the relevant Air Canada flights in response to the strike and the work was performed by Gate Gourmet employees in Alberta and Ontario.

LRB found Gate Gourmet was responsible for organizing the scabs and “took steps to reduce customer demand at YVR in response to the strike.”

It also treated Air Canada differently from other customers by making arrangements to keep its business, which also involves outsourcing order control functions. Other customers were told instead to seek catering services from different companies.

The work done by employees in Alberta and Ontario, said LRB, was work that would have been done by YVR workers if not for the strike.

Gate Gourmet recently appealed the decision, arguing LRB does not have jurisdiction outside of B.C.

It also claimed the board made mistakes, including taking into account all of its Canadian operations in the decision when only its B.C. operations should be relevant to its capacity as an employer, and for finding it has “used” scabs when it was just actioning Air Canada’s directions.

An LRB panel rejected Gate Gourmet’s claims in a decision issued earlier this month, finding the original decision did not make a mistake when considering Gate Gourmet’s scope as an employer and finding it used scabs.

The original cease and desist order only applied to Gate Gourmet, a B.C. employer, and not its employees in Ontario and Alberta, said LRB chair Jennifer Glougie.

The panel also found the original decision did not make the mistakes claimed by Gate Gourmet.

“The fact the workers (Gate Gourmet) is using to perform the replacement work are located outside the province does not mean the Board is without jurisdiction to apply the (Labour Relations Code) to (Gate Gourmet) in respect of its use of those workers,” Glougie wrote in the decision.