strike action against low pay was announced by Unite and the GMB unions at Gatwick and Stansted Airports yesterday.
Unite head of Civil Aviation, Steve Turner, announced two one-day strikes at Gatwick on 25th and 29th August, declaring: ‘There is an air of growing confidence amongst aviation workers and a genuine anger at ongoing attacks from the industry on their terms and conditions.’
Announcing a one-day strike against low pay at Stansted airport on Monday 25th, GMB South East Regional Officer Gary Pearce warned ‘our members won’t put up with it any longer.’
After 318 Swissport baggage handlers and check-in workers at Gatwick voted by 72% in favour of strike action two 24-hour strikes will take place on 25th and 29th August, with the action set to spread to other airports in the coming days and weeks.
The strikes will halt baggage handling and check-in operations across airlines including Virgin Atlantic, Monarch, Thomson Fly, First Choice, North West, Air Malta, Air Transat, Oman Air and others.
Swissport have offered a paltry 3% increase backdated to July rather than the anniversary date of 1st April in a two-year offer. The offer also removes sick pay for the first three days of any absence due to illness, including industrial injury. The union is calling for an increase in excess of 5% in a one-year deal.
The ballot results for Swissport workers at Stansted and Manchester are due soon, while members will also shortly be balloted at Birmingham and Newcastle airports, which could see an escalation of industrial action across the UK’s airports covering baggage handling, check in and other ground services.
Unite officer Steve Turner said: ‘Our members are already struggling to keep up with rising food and energy costs. This pay offer is an insult to professional, hard working men and women who have to operate in extremely difficult conditions. This result is just the first to be declared with positive ballot results expected over the next few days at Stansted and Manchester airports.
‘Swissport workers will also shortly be balloted at Birmingham and Newcastle airports which could see an escalation of industrial action across the UK’s airports.
‘Our members have had enough, the liberalisation of ground handling services across UK airports has resulted in a “race to the bottom” which must and will stop.
‘We will not stand back and allow labour costs to determine whether contracts are won or lost.
‘We are demanding a national solution to this dispute which addresses the real cost increases our members face.
‘Unite has requested a national level meeting with the company to resolve this dispute but the clock is ticking and if this does not deliver, our members will strike.
‘With the power in aviation concentrated in the hands of airlines who often understand the cost of everything and the value of nothing, professional, hard working men and women are fighting back.’
The GMB has served notice that 33 members employed by Airfield Services at Stansted Airport and paid just £6 per hour, will strike on Monday 25th August over the employer’s failure to improve on a 1.5 per cent pay offer.
Members, who receive no enhanced overtime rate and no sick pay voted by 85 per cent to strike.
GMB officer Pearce said: ‘These members who are doing one of the most vital jobs in the airport are amongst the lowest paid.’
He added: ‘They want an inflation pay offer of 5% and proper conditions for overtime and sick pay.’