Strikes at UK airports threaten to ruin 2019 summer holidays

British holidaymakers face a summer of misery as strikes threaten to cripple the country’s major airports.

Unite, which is run by Jeremy Corbyn‘s chief backer Len McCluskey, has threatened to ‘shut down’ Heathrow by taking 4,000 workers on strike for six days at the end of July and August – just as the school summer holidays begin.

Passengers hoping to avoid that chaos by using different airports could get caught up in other industrial action taking place around the country.

Workers from two separate companies at Gatwick Airport are balloting to strike, hitting security gates and cleaning services.

Unite also threatened ‘check-in chaos’ at Stansted, with EasyJet check-in staff announcing 17 days of strikes over low pay.

Further misery is set be caused at other airports around the country as British Airways pilots potentially walk out in another pay dispute.

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

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

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

The only good news for air passengers is that a planned walkout by Unite staff at Glasgow Airport was called off last month after an agreement.

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 26 July 26 and 27, August 5 and 6 and August 23 and 24.

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.

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 

‘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.

At Gatwick, Unite said last week that it was balloting more than 100 members who work for security firm ICTS, scanning passengers luggage for dangerous items.

The union has also asked members at ISS World – who provide a variety of services from baggage carrying to cleaning and waste management – if they want to strike.

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 

A spokesperson for the Sussex airport said they do not believe action would cause widespread disruption if it went ahead because of robust contingency plans.     

Unite is conducting a ballot of over 100 members working for ICTS, who are employed to scan passengers’ luggage for explosive materials and other dangerous and prohibited materials. 

Justifying the potential action, Unite said ICTS workers are paid £8.50 an hour and looking to see this increase by 50 pence to meet ‘the real living wage of £9 an hour’. 

At Stansted, Unite 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.

Commenting on the Stansted action, 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.’

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 

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 ‘significant disruption’ to come to Britain’s airports this summer 

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.

 

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