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Strike on the Island: Interview with Porter Airlines worker


February 19, 2013

Socialist.ca continues its coverage of the Porter Airlines strike with another interview with one of the striking workers.
 
What has picketing been like? How has the company responded?
 
Picketing has been up and down. Sometimes you feel effective, highly effective, a nuisance, or impotent. The need to be/feel effective forces you to be more creative and doing so can be quite satisfying. Being on the line is not where we want to be but we definitely try to make the most of it.
 
The company has responded by hiding behind the port authority. They definitely do not want to engage with us as it will bring down their brand. In newspapers, though, they lie to delegitimize our position. For instance they've said we make up to $48K and have gotten our health and safety issues removed from articles that have been posted on the web. These are outright lies.

Has there  been any movement from Porter as far as coming back to bargaining?
 
I heard that Porter will come back to the bargaining table anytime, but there is no new offer. They just want us to take their insult of an offer.
 
How are Porter able to keep flying planes? Where are they fuelling up? What must that be costing them?
 
At first it seemed to me that they were fueling only a little less at YTZ than they did before we struck but it is my understanding that they are not getting as many deliveries as they did before. This would suggest that they are tankering in enough fuel from other airports that they can return without fueling at YTZ (Toronto Island Airport). My guess would be that this is being done out of YUL (Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport), YOW (Ottawa Airport) and possibly in Boston, Newark and Chicago. This would cost them a lot because fuel is the number one expense of an airline and planes burn extra fuel for extra weight.
 
What kind of safety issues have you heard about while you all have been on strike?
 
Well the scab workers sure got all there training done very fast. I mean what took me almost 3 months to get, they got in a week. Also no one really knew what they were doing. You got a bunch of scabs fueling planes when they're not even sure how to do it.
I've heard of fuel spills, runway/taxiway incursions (vehicles not acting according to directions given by ground control when on runways or taxiways) which could result in collisions with planes at high speeds, and replacement workers busting their heads falling or hitting planes. One had to go to hospital.
 
How have people been showing you all support?

People have been showing  their support by coming down to the line and picketing with us. People also show their support by donating money, food for our BBQ and just by canceling their flights they had booked with Porter.
Many other Porter workers in different departments are supportive because they know how bad things are for them in their own departments. They know what Porter is afraid of: that things will be better for them when we succeed. We've even had a cash donation from at least one of them.
 
Other unions have given us all the support in the world by coming out and picketing with us or helping to organize and participate in actions. Labour is under attack and the airline industry is particularly in a race to the bottom with costs. We can only succeed by working together.
 
Community members are also incredibly supportive to as well as other people working for other companies on the island.
 
Cabbies, who we frustrate the most with our picketing support us as well. They understand the need for unions and they're also upset with Porter and the Toronto Port Authority because they wouldn't let them use the washrooms in the ferry terminal.

 
There was a solidarity demonstration the other day when alot of supporters showed their solidarity and created a picket line on Airport. How did that make you all feel?

Well I think this might have been the first time we got to Porter because we weren't letting any cars onto the ferry. We also had a big crowd and showed passengers there is a strike going on. If we had this much support everyday I don't think the strike would last.  

It is very humbling to know that people who you didn't know a few weeks ago are willing to take massive risks to support you. It is a learning experience for those of us who haven't been part of protests before. Many of the guys had a hard time understanding why anyone would do what some of our supporters have (like showing up at 4:30AM for a picket). I just said to them, though, that just because you don't know anyone who would do it does not mean that there aren’t people who would.
The powers that be want us all to feel alone in our struggle for fairness. They have overwhelming financial resources and only try to make sure that they get more. We are learning that we are not alone and that the struggles and success of the past are not history to be forgotten and taken for granted but lessons for our own success and the success of others.
 
For more information follow the latest news, join the facebook group, follow on twitter @OccupyFbo and @PorterStrike, and send a message to Porter.
 

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