Comparably low salaries, along with penalties for inadequate “upselling,” are among the reasons that 61 workers at Dollar Thrifty Canada have been on strike since Sept. 2.

The workers have also complained that the company wants to withdraw an $80-per-year safety shoe allowance it gives the employees, and that the company wants the right to lay off full-time employees while keeping part-time employees.

The striking employees are service center workers, drivers and cleaners who are members of United Food & Commercial Workers Canada. Dollar Thrifty Canada is located at Terminal 1 in the airport.

Union representative Jehan Ahamed said Dollar Thrifty initially offered workers a three-year deal that includes a pay freeze the first year, a 31-cent-per-hour raise the second year, and a 32-cent raise the third year. Ahamed said the Dollar Thrifty workers are about $2 an hour behind workers performing the same duties at other Pearson airport car rental agencies. The contract for the Dollar-Thrifty workers expired Sept. 1, and the strike began the next day.

Ahamed called the initial offer “insulting.” Yet when the two parties met again on Oct. 1, Ahmed said the company actually lowered its offer to 12 cents the first year, 13 cents the second, and 17 cents per hour for the third year.

“Meanwhile, the competition, Hertz, Avis, Budget and National, concluded their negotiations at $1.50 over three years,” Ahamed said. “We asked for 50 cents an hour each year for three years. That’s what the competition settled for. Their contract has been settled without dispute.”

Dollar Thrifty: Offer is Fair
Among his written responses to Auto Rental News regarding this situation, Dollar Thrifty Canada’s Vice President of Corporate Communications Ross Lancaster said that Dollar Thrifty’s proposed pay increases for all employee groups falls within the 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent range. Inflation in Canada has been at 2 percent annually for about the last 10 years, Lancaster said.

“We feel we have presented a reasonable, fair agreement,” Lancaster said, adding that the salary offer numbers given by Ahamed are inaccurate. Asked why Dollar Thrifty Canada reduced its offer, Lancaster said the offer was only reduced by 1 percent from the earlier offer.

“When we went to the union representatives with our best offer, they were told that the offer would be reduced if we got into a strike situation,” Lancaster said. “This is typical behavior in a strike, as delays in approving a new agreement incur additional costs.”

Upselling Pressure?
Ahamed said Dollar Thrifty Canada wants to discipline workers for not upselling customers to a higher-grade vehicle or for not selling insurance to customers. The workers try to upsell the customers, Ahamed said, but he added that the company wants the right to discipline workers first with a written warning, then suspension, and then termination.

Lancaster says the union wants to take away any accountability for incremental sales, which is part of the company’s sales culture. “The way we have things structured, employees cannot be disciplined for low yield,” Lancaster said.

Another union complaint is that the company wants employees to get doctor’s notes for every day missed after three days.

Business Impact
Ahamed said the picketers are turning away about 15 to 25 customers per day and that the company has lowered its daily car rental rate to $8 to keep customers from going to the competitors. “We will be intensifying our picket lines,” he said. “We are turning away customers big time.”

Lancaster denied that was the case, stating that operations have been essentially unaffected “since we got the strike protocol in place 10 days ago. In September, business drops off significantly after Labor Day, as we come out of ‘high’ season. Rates are competitive, as there is a lot of fleet out there, but rates are certainly nowhere near $8 per day. Pricing is down, but it’s symptomatic of the season and not due to the strike.”

Ahamed said workers were committed to the strike.