Heathrow Strike Warning

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Changes to shifts and rosters at Scandinavian Airways at Heathrow (SAS), now to be known as Scandinavian Ground Services (SGS), may lead to industrial action, warns the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU).

Jo Jaques, TGWU regional industrial organiser for the staff concerned, said yesterday the airline’s planned imposition of the hours of work meant that the mainly women workforce would face severe upheaval and have real problems changing their childcare arrangements.

Jaques said: ‘Part of the attraction of working for SAS was the family-friendly hours of work which meant women with young families could work and know their children were properly looked after.

‘The planned imposition of family “unfriendly” hours will mean many face a choice between staying at work or not. That’s not the way to work through change with loyal staff.’

The TGWU said there had been minimal consultation on the changes which Scandinavian want to force through.

Talks with senior managers had, to date, revealed intransigence rather than flexibility. Jaques added that some of the changes would mean working 6 days a week on flexible hours instead of the current 4 or 5 days on regular hours.

She also said the amounts of weekend working were set to change with staff expected to work up to 9 extra full weekends a year as opposed to the current norm of between one and one and a half per month.

The inability for people to plan their childcare and lives in general was also under real threat, according to Jaques.

She said it appeared clear that people could be asked to work 90 hours one month then 160 the next but that the short notice would put pressure on organising childminders and the like, at best, or make it impractical at worst.

Jaques continued: ‘The T&G knows and understands that changes from SAS to Scandinavian Ground Services means work patterns at the Terminal 3 operation will need to be altered.

‘But the way things are being done by the Heathrow managers at the moment, we’ll face calls for a walkout from a workforce which has never ever considered such a course of action in the past.’

Just short of two hundred staff are involved at Heathrow Terminal 3 the majority of whom are women providing check-in services for passengers. The TGWU is the only trade union involved.

l The TGWU said it is ‘dismayed’ over the announcement by Canadian planemaker Bombadier that it is to axe 1,330 jobs, 645 of them in Belfast.

Davy McMurray, TGWU Regional Industrial Organiser said: ‘We are dismayed at the size of the cuts. We were anticipating some but the scale of this is shocking.

‘It is a slap in the face for a workforce that have achieved the goals set by the company of increased productivity and profitability.

‘The announcement gives scant regard for people’s sensibilities at losing their jobs in the run up to Christmas.’