Angry passengers turn on unions as millions face check-in chaos

Angry passengers have slammed trade unions threatening to throw their holiday plans into chaos with a summer of strikes at a dozen UK airports.

The militant Unite union has threatened to shut down Heathrow and bring ‘check-in chaos’ for Easyjet passengers at London Stansted, with workers due to walk out from next week.

But the union – led by £140,000-a-year general secretary Len McCluskey – has also warned Gatwick faces a ‘summer of disruption’. 

It has led to the union being branded ‘the worst of Britain’ after it was accused of ‘spoiling holidays for hard-working people’.

Members of the public have been venting their fury on social media and blasted Unite over the proposed walkout, calling its leaders ‘short-sighted’ and claiming the industrial action will only ‘divide people’. 

Passengers at Heathrow Airport in London face travel misery after 4,000 members of union Unite announced they will stage three 48-hour walkouts during July and August. File photo

Angry holidaymakers have slammed Unite and branded them 'the worst of Britain'

Angry holidaymakers have slammed Unite and branded them 'the worst of Britain'

Angry holidaymakers have slammed Unite and branded them ‘the worst of Britain’

Others called the union's leaders 'short sighted' and claimed they would only divide people

Others called the union's leaders 'short sighted' and claimed they would only divide people

Others called the union’s leaders ‘short sighted’ and claimed they would only divide people

Some said the strike action was 'disgusting' and would 'ruing holidays for hard working people'

Some said the strike action was 'disgusting' and would 'ruing holidays for hard working people'

Some said the strike action was ‘disgusting’ and would ‘ruing holidays for hard working people’

Unite members – including security staff who scan luggage for explosives and maintenance workers – are currently voting on whether to strike at Britain’s second busiest airport in a separate dispute over pay. 

One Twitter user wrote: ‘UNITE caused me untold grief with BA strikes and now shutting down Heathrow. Nice going. Nothing but a bunch of jobsworth lay abouts (sic). The worst of Britain.’

Another said: ‘So good old Unite union have balloted workers so they will strike just as everyone is trying to get away in holiday, disgusting behaviour, we are not rich and have saved hard for a holiday, but let’s spoil it for everyone.’  

Another said they were so fed up they planned to stay at home, adding: ‘Strikes at UK airports threaten to ruin 2019 summer holidays. Staycation For Me!’

One Twitter user called the union leaders ‘short sighted’, adding: ‘Unite!? Contradiction and irony, if the strikes go ahead it will divide, the public will hate you, those affected won’t give a flying F**k for your cause.’ 

Some said Unite should go to the table and strike a deal to avoid 'ruining holidays and dreams'

Some said Unite should go to the table and strike a deal to avoid 'ruining holidays and dreams'

Some said Unite should go to the table and strike a deal to avoid ‘ruining holidays and dreams’

Social media users have said they plan to stay at home due to the chaos caused by the strikes

Social media users have said they plan to stay at home due to the chaos caused by the strikes

Social media users have said they plan to stay at home due to the chaos caused by the strikes

Some have also demanded explanations from airlines including British Airways over what their contingency plans are

Some have also demanded explanations from airlines including British Airways over what their contingency plans are

Some have also demanded explanations from airlines including British Airways over what their contingency plans are

Another blasted Mr McCluskey and Jeremy Corbyn and added: If you value you holidays, your job, your roof over your head don’t vote for these people.’

Meanwhile others have been demanding assurances over their travel plans and want to know what contingency plans airports and airlines have put in place. 

Another asked British Airways: @’Any reply to my earlier tweet requesting what contingencies you are putting in place, if any, to avert the strike action, or are you deflecting the issue… #AskingForAFriend’

If workers back industrial action, the walk out could begin as early as mid August, in the height of the summer holiday season.

And thousands of British Airways pilots – many of them on six figure salaries – are also voting on whether to strike over pay having rejected an inflation busting pay rise.   

Pictured: Delayed passengers at Stansted Airport Delays at Stanstead Airport, Essex, 24 Jun 2014

Pictured: Delayed passengers at Stansted Airport Delays at Stanstead Airport, Essex, 24 Jun 2014

Pictured: Delayed passengers at Stansted Airport Delays at Stanstead Airport, Essex, 24 Jun 2014

The airline operates at 14 UK airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle, Newcastle, Inverness, and Edinburgh.  

London City is the only airport it flies from which would not be affected as the pilots who fly from there are on different contracts.

The ballot closes on midday on Monday. The British Airline Pilots Association is expected to announce the result later in the day.

As unions are legally obliged to give at least two week’s notice of industrial action, the strike could take place from August if it does go ahead.

Balpa represents around 3,800 of BA’s 4,500 pilots, so a walk out is likely to ground the majority of flights.

Pilots have been offered pay rise of 14.5 per cent over three years, including an inflation-busting 4 per cent hike this year.

But they are demanding one that guarantees to beat the discredited RPI measure of inflation, as well as a new bonus scheme linked to profits.

Chris Philp, a Tory MP who has led calls for tougher strike laws to curb unions’ power, said: ‘Unions have explicitly threatened to cause chaos which shows this is little more than old school intimidation straight out of the 1970s playbook.

BA pilots could also turn to industrial action after pay talks between their union and the airline broke down

BA pilots could also turn to industrial action after pay talks between their union and the airline broke down

BA pilots could also turn to industrial action after pay talks between their union and the airline broke down 

‘Unions appear to be cynically targeting hard working families trying to get away for their summer holidays. Strikes should only ever be a last resort in exceptional circumstances – not happening across the board like this.’

The Unite union has been particularly vocal about the misery it will inflict on holidaymakers if its members’ pay demands are not met.

Unite regional officer Mark Barter said: ‘There is no getting away from it: these 17 days of strike action will cause severe disruption to thousands of Easyjet passengers using Stansted for their summer holidays.

It has also warned that ‘summer travel chaos looms’ at Heathrow, with more than 4,000 workers – from security guards to engineers, and drivers – set to walk out.

It claimed the protest could potentially shut down Britain’s busiest airport.

The union has claimed low paid workers at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted – many of them employed by private contractors – have been given meagre pay rises.

Heathrow said it has offered an inflation busting pay hike of 4.6 per cent to 70 per cent of front line workers, with the remaining workers receiving at least 3.2 per cent.

Pictured: Passengers wait for their flights on bank holiday Monday after problems at Heathrow Terminal 5 , 29 May 2017

Pictured: Passengers wait for their flights on bank holiday Monday after problems at Heathrow Terminal 5 , 29 May 2017

Pictured: Passengers wait for their flights on bank holiday Monday after problems at Heathrow Terminal 5 , 29 May 2017

But Unite said this would amount to just £3.75 a day for the lowest paid workers involved in the dispute.

The airports that are under threat of strikes

The airports that are under threat of strikes

The airports that are under threat of strikes

Last weekend transport secretary Chris Grayling urged the unions to back down. He said: ‘Whatever the rights and wrongs of the dispute, there can’t be any justification for actively trying to disrupt people’s summer holidays at such a busy time of the year’.

I hope these unions will think twice before going ahead with these disputes and undermining people’s summer.’

EasyJet has said it has drawn up contingency plans- including bringing in replacement check in staff – to minimise the impact of strikes at Stansted.

Separately climate change activists Extinction Rebellion have threatened to shut down Heathrow for up to 16 days this Autumn by flying hundreds of pink drones at head height around the airport.  

The most disruptive of the strikes will potentially be those at Heathrow when staff, including security guards, engineers and passenger service drivers, will walk out on July 26 and 27, August 5, 6, 23 and 24.

Easyjet check-in desk staff at Stansted airport are to go on strike over low pay

Easyjet check-in desk staff at Stansted airport are to go on strike over low pay

Easyjet check-in desk staff at Stansted airport are to go on strike over low pay 

Unite coordinator Wayne King threatened ‘significant disruption to flights to and from Heathrow’ and ‘the potential closure of the airport over the summer months’.

Heathrow said it will be ‘implementing contingency plans that will ensure the airport remains open’.

Unite said the planned strikes follow the rejection of an 18 month pay offer amounting to 2.7 per cent, which the union calculated amounted to just £3.75 more a day for the lowest paid workers involved in the dispute.

A spokesperson said the pay disparities between workers and the ‘massive’ pay package of Heathrow Airport’s CEO John Holland-Kaye, who reportedly received a pay increase from £2million to more than £4.2million between 2017 and 2018.  

Commenting Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King said: ‘There is deepening anger over pay among workers who are essential to the smooth running of Heathrow Airport.

‘They are fed up of being expected to accept crumbs while the chief executive pockets an eye popping 103 per cent rise in his pay package and shareholders are handed dividends of over £2 billion in the last two years alone.

‘To add insult to injury there are widening pay disparities leading to airport security guards employed after 2014 earning up to £6,000 less than colleagues hired before that date.’

He continued: ‘Bosses at Heathrow Airport need to get their heads out of the sand and start negotiating meaningfully over pay. 

‘Otherwise there will be significant disruption to flights to and from Heathrow and the potential closure of the airport over the summer months because of industrial action.’

The majority of the strikes are organised by Unite, whose general secretary is Len McCluskey

The majority of the strikes are organised by Unite, whose general secretary is Len McCluskey

The majority of the strikes are organised by Unite, whose general secretary is Len McCluskey 

At Stansted, the union threatened ‘check-in chaos’, announcing that 43 staff who work on the budget airline’s check-in desks have voted unanimously for the walkouts.

The union represents staff employed by Stobart Aviation Services, which runs the EasyJet contract at the Essex airport.

The first walkout will be July 25-29, on the eve of the peak holiday season. The other dates affected are August 2-5, August 9-12, August 16-19 and August 23-27 – the final day of each strike period covers just the hours from midnight until 3.30am.  

But EasyJet denied the strikes would be so disruptive.

A spokesman said: ‘We are aware dates have been published for industrial action. Should this go ahead we have contingency plans in place so there would be no impact on passengers.’

Meanwhile, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) said last week that talks with BA over pay have broken down.

A ballot over strike action will close on July 22 with the union saying: ‘Until BA changes its attitude there is little prospect of talks resuming.’

A spokesperson for British Airways has said the talks have simply adjourned, adding: ‘We remain open and flexible to find a solution to protect hard-working families looking forward to their summer breaks.’

THE SUMMER OF DISCONTENT 

HEATHROW:

More than 4,000 workers across Heathrow’s five terminals – including security guards, engineers, passenger service operatives and drivers – could bring chaos to the airport by walking out on the following days:

  • July 26
  • July 27
  • August 5
  • August 6
  • August 23
  • August 24

A Unite coordinator said the action could cause ‘significant disruption to flights to and from Heathrow’ and ‘the potential closure of the airport over the summer months’.

GATWICK:

Unite said it was balloting more than 100 members working with security firm ICTS, who scan luggage for explosive materials.

The union is also balloting ISS workers who are involved in maintaining the airport’s facilities – such as its bathrooms – and helping move luggage and rearranging furniture.

If workers vote to strike then ‘delays and disruption’ could take hold of the airport ‘later this summer’, Unite said.

STANSTED:

Easyjet check-in staff have announced 17 days of strikes, causing potentially ‘severe delays’ on the following dates:

  • July 25-29
  • August 2-5
  • August 9-12,
  • August 16-19
  • August 23-27

Unite said 43 staff working at check-in desks had voted unanimously for walkouts.

A Unite regional officer said there was ‘no getting away’ from the fact that the action would cause ‘severe disruption’ to thousands of Easyjet customers using Stansted.

ALEX BRUMMER: How dare Bolshie unions and pilots on £200,000-a-year threaten to ruin our summer holidays with airport chaos 

By Alex Brummer for the Daily Mail

Of course we should have expected no less, given their disgraceful record for staging strikes at times that most damage people’s daily lives.

But, predictably, the unions have chosen the coming weeks — just after schools break up — to hold a series of walk-outs that will sabotage family holidays.

And, even worse, it’s not just one airport that will be affected.

Predictably, the unions have chosen the coming weeks ¿ just after schools break up ¿ to hold a series of walk-outs that will sabotage family holidays. Pictured: Heathrow Airport

Predictably, the unions have chosen the coming weeks ¿ just after schools break up ¿ to hold a series of walk-outs that will sabotage family holidays. Pictured: Heathrow Airport

Predictably, the unions have chosen the coming weeks — just after schools break up — to hold a series of walk-outs that will sabotage family holidays. Pictured: Heathrow Airport

Staff who work at several UK airports and a number of airlines have announced strikes, or are currently voting on whether or not to take industrial action.

The Unite union, led by Jeremy Corbyn crony Len McCluskey, has said it will ‘shut down’ Heathrow airport on six days over July and August in a down-tools involving 4,000 workers — including engineers, drivers and security guards.

At Gatwick, staff are voting on whether or not to strike over what Unite claims are ‘poverty pay rates’.

Employees at easyJet check-in desks at Stansted Airport have announced 17 days of strikes.

Meanwhile, British Airways (BA) pilots are voting on whether to strike after pay negotiations stalled. 

The battle between BA and the pilots’ union, Balpa (which is believed to have fallen under the control of a generation of more radical leaders), is nowhere near being solved despite lengthy talks.

Expense

On offer to the 4,500 pilots is a pay deal worth 11.5 per cent over three years in addition to improvements to generous expense allowances.

To many the idea of pilots, some of whom earn £200,000 a year or more for flying longer-haul routes, striking against travellers (on average full-time salaries of £36,611 a year) is abhorrent.

But the pilots are convinced they deserve more — having seen that BA’s owner, International Airlines Group, which also owns Iberia and Aer Lingus, achieved profits of £2.89 billion last year.

Initially, other unions with BA staff, including GMB and Unite, agreed to support the pilots but have now recommended that their members accept BA’s pay offer.

For their part, union leaders claim the profits made by airport owners and airlines are excessive, that bosses are overpaid and that ground staff and pilots should have a bigger share of the spoils. 

Families told not to travel to strike-bound airports or who find themselves stranded in concourses will angrily ask why workers are acting now, at a time when, after years of austerity, Britain’s jobs market has never been better.

Profits

Unemployment is at its lowest level since the early Seventies, at 3.8 per cent. Wages are rising at 3.6 per cent a year — appreciably above inflation — and at the fastest rate for 11 years.

Yet McCluskey and his band of Bolshie brothers — clearly intent on taking on the Tory Government as well as airport bosses — seem determined to close down the country’s busiest airports at the busiest time of the year.

For once, though, it is not just the unions who are to blame.

For the greed of airport bosses and of the private equity and foreign owners of UK airports is a major factor. 

Many bosses receive controversial financial packages and airport owners are ruthlessly ramping up profits.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye was given a pay rise of 103.2 per cent last year — receiving £4.2 million. 

When the Prime Minister’s salary is £150,402 it is hard to see how he can be worth more than 25 times what she gets.

Equally galling for airport staff and the flying public is that Heathrow’s overseas-based owners received a £500 million dividend after the airport took record revenues of £3 billion.

Over the last seven years the owners — including the Qatar Investment Authority, Singapore-based GIC, the China Investment Corporation and Spain’s Ferrovial — have extracted £3.5 billion from the once UK state-owned enterprise.

Bonus

It’s not just Heathrow. A senior executive at Stobart Group, which owns Southend Airport in Essex, is potentially in line for a £30 million pay-out.

No wonder Unite regional officer Mark Barter described the deal as a ‘scandal . . . that leaves a very sour taste for our low-paid members’.

The potential bonus for the executive, Warwick Brady, has also been condemned because it had been kept secret and not put to a shareholder vote. Stobart’s former chief executive, too, has raised concerns about the bonus scheme.

British Airways (BA) pilots are voting on whether to strike after pay negotiations stalled

British Airways (BA) pilots are voting on whether to strike after pay negotiations stalled

British Airways (BA) pilots are voting on whether to strike after pay negotiations stalled

The belief that huge pay deals are an abuse of free market capitalism naturally gives ammunition to Labour as it demands that national utilities and key infrastructure owners should be taken back into public control.

The truth is that private companies’ inability to share the proceeds of success more widely and to invest more profits into the business is a huge failing by greedy owners and investors.

The UK having become a laughing stock abroad for not solving the issue of Heathrow’s third runway, investment in this country’s airports could not be more vital. 

Now the world’s seventh-largest airport faces being shut down — not only leading to wrecked holidays but delivering an enormous blow to the UK economy.

Heathrow is the airport most used by the business community and its convenience is a major factor contributing to the City of London’s success as a world financial centre, and the decision of digital giants such as Google to build new European HQ campuses in the UK.

Compounding problems for passengers during this nightmare summer is the fact that there is no obligation for airlines to pay compensation for delays or cancellations on strike days.

For the Civil Aviation Authority has judged that strikes are an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.

If that weren’t enough, airports are playing their usual peak-holiday trick of hiking parking charges.

In August, it will cost £89.99 to park a car for seven days at Stansted’s JetParks facility or £104 at the short-stay park. 

Yet in early October, the same stay would be £45.99 and short stay parking would be £70.

No wonder Visit Britain, the national tourism agency, has urged people to take a holiday at home.

All that said, the unions should hang their heads in shame for trying to score political points and make summer miserable for millions of families who want to fly abroad.

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