Workers at five Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) stores in southern Ontario have been on strike since October 29. Workers are striking in London, Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge and Guelph over two main issues, workload and pay. Before the strikes CAA tabled a three-year agreement that had no pay increases within the first two years, and then a 1% increase in the third year.
Workers at CAA have said they are experiencing increased workloads throughout the pandemic due to staffing shortages. They are being asked to help other departments stores and departments without compensation for that work. As travelling has resumed, workloads have increased including managing the rebookings from cancellations, and navigating the new travel requirements. For example, London had four more staff at their location before COVID hit, however when they left they were not replaced, increasing the workload for those left.
Besides workload there have been issues with pay. The union has said they want a change to the compensation structure. Workers wages were cut by $3 an hour because they did not generate more than $75,000 in travel sales in 2020. If they make more than $75,000 in travel sales, their base wage jumps from more than $16 an hour to more than $19 an hour. They want a base wage of more than $19 with commission in addition.
The CAA offer of 1% increase over three years (with that increase only happening in the last year) is in effect a substantial wage cut for workers. Inflation is roughly 5% in 2021 and expected to remain relatively high over the next couple of years. The contract on offer from CAA would leave workers further behind,
CAA spokesperson Tony Tsai said that CAA has made extraordinary commitments during the pandemic including a rule of no lay-offs. However, CAA received the Canadian government wage subsidy. Claiming you have made an extraordinary commitment when receiving government compensation while still cutting workers base wages and increased workload is laughable.
Striking workers at the CAA are fighting for higher wages and a sense of fairness when it comes to workload. While employers like the CAA have received generous state subsidies to see them through the crisis, workers have been forced out on strike to fight for decent pay. To ensure our post-pandemic economy doesn’t leave workers behind, workers winning strikes, like the CAA strike, will be key.
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