Wages to soar 40 percent for SFO catering workers

An expanded wage and benefit policy approved by the San Francisco International Airport Commission Tuesday will raise the wages of workers at airline catering companies and could help reduce turnover, according to airport and union officials.

However the vote does not eliminate the risk of labor action at one Burlingame company, where workers negotiating for better pay and benefits recently voted to authorize a strike, union officials said today.

The commission voted today to expand the airport’s Quality Standards Program, or QSP, originally created to cover security screeners working as contract employees, to include airline-catering employees at three local companies, according to airport spokesman Doug Yakel.

The food companies produce on-board food for passengers off-site and deliver it to planes on the tarmac in trucks.

The QSP, which now covers around 12,500 contract employees in positions involving safety and security at SFO, establishes training, equipment, compensation and benefits standards for contractors, according to airport officials. The changes approved today will take effect on March 1, 2016.

Airport spokesman Doug Yakel said of the program:

“The goal is to increase safety and security by reducing turnover.”

In practice, it means that the lowest paid workers at the catering companies will see their pay increase from about $9.44 an hour to about $13.52 an hour, according to officials with United Here Local 2, the union representing those workers.

Local 2 President Anand Singh said:

“This is a very positive step forward, and it will impact hundreds of working people down the Peninsula who make the food for the airlines.”

Workers at the Burlingame-based Flying Food Group voted in September to authorize a strike. Union officials today said that a strike remains possible because while the commission’s action will raise wages for the lowest-paid workers, it does not address how much the higher paid workers will receive or resolve issues with health and retirement benefits.

Singh said:

“In the end, we think that it’s not the catering companies themselves but the airlines that will need to address this. … They’re the ones that are ultimately profiting from these dead-end, low-wage jobs.”

A call to Flying Food Group officials was not returned.