Airport strikes to disrupt Bank Holiday

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Travellers face August Bank Holiday chaos at two of the UK's busiest airports because of a planned strike by workers including baggage handlers and check-in staff, it was warned today.







Gatwick and Stansted are set to be hit by strikes on 25 August and again on 29 August in a dispute over pay which could spread to Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle airports.



Workers employed by Swissport have rejected a "paltry" 3 per cent pay offer which unions complained was well below the rate of inflation.



The company was also accused of removing sick pay for the first three days of any absence due to illness, including industrial injury.



Members of Unite at Gatwick and Stansted will take part in the strike, while GMB members at Stansted will also walk out on the same days.



Unite will announce a ballot result among its Swissport members at Manchester airport next week and said workers in Birmingham and Newcastle airports will also be balloted for strike action over pay.



National 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.



"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."



A spokesman for Swissport said: "Swissport is aware of the disappointing news that a small number of union members have voted for strike action at Gatwick airport.



"Swissport believes that a fair offer has been made to the unions in the light of the current economic climate that reflects the cost of living increase.



"Swissport is working with the airport operator and the customer airlines to minimise disruption to the travelling public."



The GMB said its members at Stansted will also strike on 25 August and 29 after voting by 9-1 in favour of industrial action.



The union said the anniversary date for a pay rise was April, but the current offer would run from July.



Workers involved in the dispute handle baggage and check-in arrangements for Ryanair and easyJet at Stansted.



GMB officer Gary Pearce said: "GMB members can not afford these low pay rises given the rising prices they have to pay for food, energy and transport.



"The employers, the airlines and the airport operator need to adjust their view as to what our members will now accept. The only way they have of meeting higher prices passed on to them is to raise their own prices in higher pay rises."



More than 30 GMB members who screen luggage at Stansted will also strike on Bank Holiday Monday in a separate dispute over pay after rejecting a 1.5 per cent pay offer.



The union complained that the workers were due a pay rise last January but their employers, Airfield Services had been "dragging their feet".



The workers screen baggage after they leave check-in desks on the way to the hold of aircraft.



GMB official Gary Pearce said: "These workers are doing one of the most vital jobs in the airport but are among the lowest paid."



The union is claiming a 5 per cent pay offer to keep pace with inflation.

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