Julian Bray Aviation Security expert says the Unite trade union is seeking to totally close down UK airports in what is viewed as 'a perfect storm' of widespread industrial unrest involving several transport sector unions.
Airline handlers employed by the Swissport contractor will strike just days before Christmas, and the disruption will last well into the New Year.
This latest development will impact on all airlines using UK airports. Virgin Atlantic pilots signalled pending industrial action, this is in addition to the ongoing British Airways cabin staff dispute and strike action.
To compound this rail travel on Southern Railway and London Underground is subject to all out cancellations in a series of ongoing disputes, meanwhile Virgin America shareholder have accepted an offer to sell the airline.
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, and Southampton and Stansted.
In addition, Virgin Atlantic pilots have voted for industrial action short of a strike 'working to contract' in a row over union recognition.
Also from 23 December, "pilot goodwill" will be removed, which could mean some flights not being covered, the PPU said. The PPU represents the majority of Virgin Atlantic pilots.
Virgin said it did not expect flights to be affected, but that upbeat statement was hours before the shock Unite Union move which said it was invoking industrial action on behalf of its Swissport ground staff and baggage handling members.
Over 1,500 check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, will walk out for 48 hours at 00.01 Friday 23 December in a long-running pay dispute, and plans to seriously erode terms and conditions.
Unite today (Friday 16 December) called on the management to take part in constructive negotiations under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas in a bid to avoid Christmas travel disruption at the UK’s airports.
Unite members voted by 62.5 per cent to reject a 4.65 per cent three year pay deal for 2015-2017, which the union argues, is barely keeping pace with inflation. The staff are also angry that detrimental changes to terms and conditions have been linked to the pay deal.
The changes include freezing overtime payments for the foreseeable future and restructuring pay.
Unite national officer for civil air transport Oliver Richardson said: “We appreciate that this is a very busy time of year at the UK’s airports and that’s why we are calling for the company to engage in constructive talks under the auspices of Acas to resolve this dispute. Unite’s door is open 24/7 for such talks.
“Our members are only taking this industrial action as a last resort in a bid to reach a fair settlement – our members have not had a pay rise since 2014.
“When you break down the headline figures – one per cent in 2015, 1.25 per cent in 2016 and 2.4 per cent in 2017 – they are barely keeping up with inflation.
“The company only wants these increases to be applicable to basic pay and not the other elements that make up ‘pay’ such as overtime.
“The dispute has been compounded by the high-handed attitude of the management in making proposals that would seriously impact the workforce’s terms and conditions, such as freezing overtime payments.”
But fear not, all is not lost, Frank Barratt, the Mail on Sundays' globe trotting, champagne quaffing, travel editor was possibly overly optimistic on BBCRadio 5Live Saturday Breakfast, and batted away aviation expert Julian Brays idea that the multiple strikes would go ahead on December 23rd.
Mr Barratt also helpfully suggested that little could be done, especially if the intending traveller had budget airline flight tickets. So that's all right then, as the Mail on Sunday said so!
If you are reading this from a strike bound airport on the 23rd December you know who to call...err The Mail on Sunday. ....Merry Christmas!
JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581 Aerospace & Incident Management Expert, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations, Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com