Baggage handlers at Manchester, Stansted, Luton, Gatwick and Heathrow could all take part in the action
Baggage handlers at Manchester, Stansted, Luton, Gatwick and Heathrow could all take part in the action

Strikes could hit airline passengers on busiest day of season

Ground handlers and pilots in dispute with employers

Simon Calder,Michael Co
Friday 16 December 2016 19:19

Check-in staff and baggage handlers will begin a strike at 18 leading UK airports on the busiest day of the festive season: next Friday, 23 December.

Ground staff working for handling company Swissport are involved in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions. They intend to stop work on 23 December and Christmas Eve.

Their union, Unite, says the workers have not had a pay rise since 2014. Members voted 63:37 to reject a three-year pay deal that, the union argues, is barely keeping pace with inflation. Linked changes include freezing overtime payments.

Unite’s national officer for civil air transport, Oliver Richardson, said: “Our members are only taking this industrial action as a last resort in a bid to reach a fair settlement.

“We appreciate that this is a very busy time of year at the UK’s airports and that’s why we are calling for the company to engage in constructive talks under the auspices of Acas to resolve this dispute.”

Research by The Independent shows that it will be the busiest day of the festive season at many UK airports where Swissport operates, including Manchester, Stansted and Luton.

The strike could also affect Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle and Leeds/Bradford.

Recent past strikes involving ground staff have had limited effect, with managers covering the duties.

Starting on the same day, pilots working for Virgin Atlantic will begin a work-to-rule. The Professional Pilot’s Union (PPU), which represents most of the airlines’s 900 pilots, voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action. They say they will work “strictly to contract”, which could involve refusing to be flexible in the event of disruption.

Pilots can exercise considerable discretion on working hours when weather or other factors intervene.

Virgin Atlantic said it expects flights to operate as normal.

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