Easter worries for Heathrow travellers

Baggage maintenance engineers employed by Vanderlande Industries at Heathrow strike over pay

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Heathrow passengers are being warned of problems over the Easter holidays as baggage maintenance engineers take strike action over a pay freeze.

Unite, said more than 160 of its members employed by Heathrow baggage engineering contractor Vanderlande Industries voted overwhelming to stage Easter holiday strikes from April 8 until April 10. On a ballot with a 77 per cent turnout, 97 per cent voted for strike action.

The workers are highly skilled engineering technicians, duty engineers, process managers and control room operators. They are responsible for operating and maintaining the complete baggage system across every terminal. The strikes will impact all airlines at Heathrow, including BA, KLM, Air France and Lufthansa.

The pay freeze comes despite Vanderlande recording a 27 per cent increase in orders and a 14 per cent growth in revenue in its commercial report for the 2021 financial year. The report also states that Vanderlande continued on a ‘profitable growth path’.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said,“Vanderlande is cashing in on the travel sector’s recovery but refusing our members a decent pay rise even as the cost-of-living soars. As this resounding vote for action shows, this is not on.

“Employers across the sector are on notice that our members are ready to fight back against the sustained and opportunistic attacks against jobs, pay and conditions that have blighted this industry for far too long,” she added.

The company has stated a pay freeze is necessary because the cost of increasing wages is passed directly to Heathrow Airport, which is refusing to approve a deal.

However, Vanderlande has secured its own funds to grant rises for staff on performance related pay contracts not covered by Unite’s bargaining agreement.

Unite regional officer Lindsey Olliver added, “Vanderlande’s excuses for justifying a pay freeze for some but not others are hypocritical and unfair. These excuses will not wash with our members, who are increasingly angry at the company’s inferior treatment of its unionised staff.

“There is still time to avoid strike action and Unite urges Vanderlande and Heathrow to put an end to this dispute by tabling an offer our members can accept.”

By Ryan Fletcher

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