Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Friday, 15 August 2008 14:11 UK

Airports face Bank Holiday strike

Check-in desk
Workers at Gatwick will hold two 24-hour strikes later this month

Baggage handlers and check-in staff at Gatwick and Stansted airports are to strike on Bank Holiday Monday in a row over pay, unions say.

At Gatwick, 318 Swissport workers will walk out for 24 hours, halting services at some airlines. A second strike is planned for Friday 29 August.

The staff have rejected a 3% pay offer which the Unite union said was "an insult" and well below inflation.

Workers from two unions at Stansted have also voted to strike.

Unite said industrial action could spread to other airports in the coming weeks.

Workers at Manchester Airport will put the decision to a vote on Monday, and further ballots are expected later at Birmingham and Newcastle airports.

Unite members working for Swissport at Stansted will be joined by 30 members of the GMB union when they walk out on Monday 25 August and Friday 29.

The GMB members, who work for Airfield Services screening baggage for Ryanair and easyJet, have rejected a 1.5% pay offer.

Cost of living

Unite has more than 300 members at Gatwick, 72% of whom voted in favour of striking. They want to see a pay increase of more than 5%.

This pay offer is an insult to professional, hard working men and women
Steve Turner, Unite

Airlines including Virgin Atlantic, Monarch, Thomson Fly and First Choice would be affected if the action later this month went ahead.

National officer Steve Turner said: "Our members are already struggling to keep up with rising food and energy costs.

"This pay offer is an insult to professional, hard working men and women who have to operate in extremely difficult conditions.

"Our members have had enough. The liberalisation of ground handling services across UK airports has resulted in a race to the bottom which must and will stop.

"We will not stand back and allow labour costs to determine whether contracts are won or lost."

'Minimise disruption'

Swissport said it was aware that a "small number" of its staff were planning to strike.

A spokesman said: "Swissport believes that a fair offer has been made to the unions in the light of the current economic climate that reflects the cost of living increase.

"Swissport is working with the airport operator and the customer airlines to minimise disruption to the travelling public."

Gary Pearce, from the GMB, said the Stansted workers were due a pay rise last January but their employers had been "dragging their feet".

"These workers are doing one of the most vital jobs in the airport but are among the lowest paid," he said.

In January, planned strikes at Gatwick and six other airports were called off after BAA eased plans to alter workers' pension rights.

UK airport strikes are called off
03 Jan 08 |  Business
Strike threat at London airports
29 Aug 07 |  Business

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