A breakthrough on the pay and conditions of baggage handlers, check-in staff and ground crew employed by Swissport has seen Unite, the workers’ union, announce today (Tuesday) that a pre-Christmas strike has been called off.
The 48 hour strike, poised to begin at 00.01 hours on Friday 23 December, would have seen over 1,500 frontline airport staff walk out in 18 airports around the UK.
Unite shop stewards will now take the offer, made at talks convened by the conciliation service, Acas, back to their members.
Unite has been working towards measures that would address the problem of chronic low pay at Swissport with some baggage handlers earning only pennies about the government’s minimum wage level of £7.20.
Commenting on the breakthrough, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “That the strike is called off is obviously good news for Unite members and very welcome news for passengers.
“No worker likes taking strike action but often the threat of it is the only way to make headway in very frustrating circumstances.
“All along we have said that these workers have a powerful case. They are employed on poverty pay rates – this union says that this is not good enough and so we are determined to win them a better deal.
“That is what these excellent stewards have made headway on today.
“We now take this offer back to the members for their consideration.
“Lastly, I call upon British Airways to pay heed. This union is clearly open to reasonable negotiations. We sincerely hope you take a leaf out of Swissport’s book and meet our members halfway on what is also a very just cause, the call for a living wage and equality for these young workers.”
Unite members had voted by 62.5 per cent to reject a 4.65 per cent three year pay deal for 2015-2017, barely keeping pace with inflation.
Unite has Swissport members at the following airports: Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Doncaster, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, Leeds/Bradford, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton and Stansted.
For further information please call Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 07967 665 869 or Unite director of campaigns and communications Pauline Doyle on 07976 832 861 or Unite senior communications officer on 07768 693940.
Notes to editors
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.
According to its website: ‘Swissport is the world's largest provider of ground and cargo handling services in the aviation industry. The company provides services on behalf of some 835 client-companies and handles around 230 million passengers and 3.9 million flights (movements) per year.’
The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 1.2 per cent in the year to November 2016, compared with a 0.9 per cent rise in the year to October. The rate in November was the highest since October 2014, when it was 1.3 per cent.