Strike threat at airport

HOLIDAYMAKERS face Bank Holiday weekend chaos after baggage handlers and check-in staff at Stansted Airport announced two strikes. The news of the industrial action - part of a pay dispute - is a major setback for the airport which has been attempting to run smoothly despite the restrictions introduced because of the recent terror alerts.

HOLIDAYMAKERS face Bank Holiday weekend chaos after baggage handlers and check-in staff at Stansted Airport announced two strikes.

The news of the industrial action - part of a pay dispute - is a major setback for the airport which has been attempting to run smoothly despite the restrictions introduced because of the recent terror alerts.

The GMB union predicted flights at the Essex airport would be “severely disrupted” by the walkouts, planned by about 500 workers.

Meanwhile, Michael O'Leary, boss of Stansted-based budget carrier Ryanair, also threatened legal action against the Government yesterday because of the delays caused by the current security checks.


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He said: “If they allow these restrictions to stay in place, then the government will have handed the extremists an enormous PR victory.”

And a spokesman for the company later accused the GMB of “exploiting” the current situation regarding restrictions on baggage, especially with its timing.

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The spokesman said: “I think this highlights the need for the Government to bring about a return to normality on the flights going out of the London airports.”

He predicted that flights would operate as normal, as long as passengers were able to carry luggage onboard flights.

Strike action is due to start at 5am next Saturday until 8am the next day, and again from 5am on August Bank Holiday Monday until 8am the following day.

The GMB said it submitted a pay claim in April, including calls for a premium rate for Sunday working in addition to a “substantial” pay review.

The union claimed employers Swissport had not met the claim for Sunday premiums and the pay offer they had put on the table included “unacceptable” strings attached.

The workers provide ground-handling services like check-in and baggage handling for about 80% of the passengers who use London Stansted airport, said the union.

GMB officer Gary Pearce said: “Our members at Stansted deeply regret having to take this type of action but because of the company's action have been left with no alternative.

“This action will severely disrupt the Ryanair, easyJet and charter flights out of Stansted over the four days during the Bank Holiday.

“We urge Swissport to reconsider their offer. The GMB are willing to meet with the company in an effort to resolve this dispute.”

A spokesman for BAA Stansted said: “This is an issue for the unions, the airlines and Swissport, it is not something we would get involved in at this moment at time.

“What it means for the airport is too early to say, but if it goes ahead we will speak to the airlines.”

No one was available from Swissport for comment yesterday.

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