New Caterer Asked to Retain Employees : Burbank Airport Backs Food Workers

Times Staff Writer

Burbank Airport's ruling body Monday came to the support of airport food-service workers who are in danger of losing their jobs because the airport hired a new catering company.

The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority urged the new firm to retain about 50 food-service workers after hearing from their representatives and supporters. The group picketed the terminal building before the authority's regular meeting Monday, then entered the meeting room to make their plea.

The demonstrators, organized by Local 11 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, AFL-CIO, carried signs that read "Jobs, Not Welfare" and "Save Our Jobs."

The 50 or so airport workers staff the bar and restaurants at the airport and prepare meals that are sold to airlines to be served to passengers. They face possible dismissal because the airport authority has ended its food service contract with Greyhound Food Management. For many years, Greyhound, which employs the workers, has handled the airport's food operations under a concession contract with the airport authority.

New Contract

In January, the airport authority negotiated a new food-service concession contract with Host International, a subsidiary of the Marriott Corp. The contract is effective July 1.

Host International is advertising for new employees. It has made no commitment to hiring present staff members beyond stating that they can submit applications for their jobs along with other applicants, union representatives complained. Some of those affected have worked at the airport for more than 30 years, union field representative David Ronquillo said.

The union asked Host International to give the present airport workers priority in filling the jobs, and the company responded that it was under no legal requirement to do so, Ronquillo said.

Host International representatives declined to comment.

Commissioner Leland Ayers of Burbank--after hearing appeals by union leaders, a Catholic priest and a group of workers, including a cook who has been at the airport for 11 years--introduced a motion calling on Host International to hire the present employees where possible and to conduct employment interviews at the airport to make it easier for them to apply.

The motion passed unanimously, directing the authority president, Robert W. Garcin, to ask Host International to give "priority consideration to both long- and short-term employees" now at the airport "in consideration of their past performance."

The workers and the union representatives were warned that the commission "is not in a position to offer any guarantees" that the workers will retain their jobs, because Host International, under the contract for its concession, is free to make employment decisions, airport spokesman Victor Gill said.

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