Stansted strike threat branded 'cynical'

THE threat of industrial action at Stansted Airport during the Bank Holiday weekend is a “cynical attempt” to ruin people's holidays, it was claimed last night.

James Hore

THE threat of industrial action at Stansted Airport during the Bank Holiday weekend is a “cynical attempt” to ruin people's holidays, it was claimed last night.

Swissport workers at the Essex airport, along with Gatwick and Manchester airports have voted to take industrial action in a vote backed by Unite.

But the union has been accused of ruining thousands of holidays after baggage handlers and other workers at the airport vowed to go on strike in a pay row.

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The unions had been expecting a 2.75% wage rise to be paid in April under an agreement struck this time last year, which prevented a walkout last August, and have accused Swissport of reneging on the two-year pay deal.

Unite told the EADT last night that exact details of the action of Stansted would be finalised early this week.

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Although the unions have held back from naming all strike dates, Swissport CEO Mark Faulkner criticised the “cynical attempt to ruin the holiday plans of airport users”.

He said: “We have reminded our staff that many of these passengers are themselves union members.

“Swissport cannot respond to this type of militant behaviour and believe that the actions of the union are not in the interests of their members.”

However, Steve Turner, Unite's national officer, claimed: “Our members have demonstrated clearly that they are prepared to take part in industrial action and are willing to fight for fair pay.

“These workers deserve recognition for their hard work and their continued commitment, instead Swissport has turned its back on the workers and failed to honour its side of the agreement.”

Swissport said it was incurring heavy losses due to a 19% reduction in flight volumes this year, adding it had avoided large scale redundancies and site closures to date.

Unite said it was seeking an urgent meeting with Swissport management in an attempt to settle the dispute, while the GMB said it was holding further talks with its members.

Unite has announced its members employed by Swissport at Manchester Airport would stage a ban on overtime and a work to rule from Saturday to Bank Holiday Monday.

A Unite spokesman said: “There has not been a decision yet about the exact nature of what will be happening at Stansted.

“Senior union representatives will be deciding on the appropriate course of action to take - there are a number of options but I don't want to be too specific - I don't want to give the wrong impression of what will happen.

“We should know by Monday what will happen and when - it's a case of watch this space.”

A spokesman for BAA Stansted said: “We are aware of the ongoing dispute between Swissport and the GMB and Unite unions and, working with Swissport's management and the airlines who may be affected by any industrial action, we are preparing contingency plans to ensure any disruption to our passengers is kept to a minimum.”

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