Page last updated at 10:11 GMT, Saturday, 22 August 2009 11:11 UK

Boss warns over airport strikes

Passengers at Gatwick Airport
The unions say their members are prepared to fight for fair pay

A union has been accused of trying to wreck thousands of people's holidays after baggage handlers backed strikes at some of the UK's biggest airports.

Swissport workers at Stansted, Gatwick and Manchester, who are members of the Unite union, are in a dispute over pay.

Swissport chief Mark Faulkner said the threats were a "cynical attempt to ruin the holiday plans of airport users".

The unions expected a 2.75% wage rise to be paid in April and have accused Swissport of reneging on the deal.

Mr Faulkner said: "At this time of year more than 100,000 passengers travel through Gatwick each day, with a large proportion of them handled by Swissport.

"We have reminded our staff that many of these passengers are themselves union members.

'Militant behaviour'

"Swissport cannot respond to this type of militant behaviour and believe that the actions of the union are not in the interests of their members."

Unite said it was seeking an urgent meeting with Swissport management in an attempt to settle the dispute, while the GMB said it was holding further talks with its members.

Unite said its members employed by Swissport at Manchester Airport would hold a ban on overtime and a work to rule from Saturday 29 August to Monday 31 August.

The union said its members at the airport who refuelled aircraft would stage a strike from 0500 BST on 31 August to 1245 BST on 1 September.

'Prepared to fight'

Steve Turner, Unite's national officer, said: "Our members have demonstrated clearly that they are prepared to take part in industrial action and are willing to fight for fair pay.

"These workers deserve recognition for their hard work and their continued commitment, instead Swissport has turned its back on the workers and failed to honour its side of the agreement."

Swissport said it was incurring heavy losses due to a 19% reduction in flight volumes this year, adding it had avoided large scale redundancies and site closures to date.

A spokesman said the company had made every effort to "minimise the impact of the current market conditions on its employees".

He stressed that any industrial action would jeopardise such efforts.

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