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‘Determined to fight back’

Unite is standing up to airport employers – and winning
Hajera Blagg, Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Unite is standing up for its members in airports up and down the country in a series of separate strike actions in recent and coming weeks.


Unite members at Glasgow and Aberdeen Airports, including fire-fighters, security and airside staff, are expected to down tools in two 12-hour stoppages at both airports on Friday (June 7) and Monday (June 10) from 4am in a dispute over pay and pensions.


Another 4-hour strike is planned at Glasgow airport on June 14. Unite has accused management of withdrawing from negotiations over plans to close a final salary pension scheme.


Meanwhile, security guards at London Luton Airport, angry at ‘heavy-handed’ changes to working time, are planning to take strike action for most of June and July in their fourth period of strike action.


The security guards began their latest wave of strike action on Wednesday (June 5) from 4.30am and intend to continue until Tuesday, July 23 if management does not come to the table for talks. Unite is meeting the airport with Acas next Wednesday (June 12) to try to resolve the dispute.


The Luton security guards are fighting against a new shift pattern that sees them work an extra 15 days a year. The workers, who say the shift pattern has affected their well-being, now have only 9 full free weekends in the entire year. They also have lest rest time in between shifts; those with caring responsibilities are especially impacted.


The strength of feeling against the changes to working time resulted in 95 per cent of members balloted voting in favour of strike action.


“Security guards are determined to fight back against Luton Airport’s heavy-handed and antisocial shift changes,” said Unite regional officer Jeff Hodge. “Management are trying to force staff to work for longer, with shorter breaks, while piling extra costs on the workforce. The airport management have even callously cut the amount of free weekends workers get to spend with their friends and family.”


“The airport needs to take responsibility for the staff shortages by doing what’s needed to recruit new staff rather than heaping all the burden on its workforce,” he said, adding that he hopes management listens and works with Unite to resolve the dispute.



Unite’s efforts in challenging airports over their treatment of their workforce has in recent weeks reaped resounding success. Most recently, strike action was avoided at both Heathrow and Luton airports when employers came to the table and workers won their demands.


Hundreds of baggage handlers and check-in staff employed by GH London (formally Azzurra) at Heathrow voted more than 99 per cent in favour of strike action in April over low pay and a series of pay freezes. But strikes were avoided after constructive talks – in the end workers won a 9.1 per cent pay rise, including a 6.1 per cent for 2017 and 2018, on top of a 3 per cent increase for 2019.


In a separate dispute, Luton staff working for the same firm, GH London, also suspended strike action in April following constructive talks. They emerged victorious with a 6.1 per cent pay rise.


Commenting on the resolving of the Heathrow dispute, Unite regional officer Kevin Hall said, “There was a lot of anger but more and more workers joined Unite and were able to demand an end to the pay injustice.”


“Once constructive talks got underway the workers’ representatives negotiated a 9 per cent pay deal,” he added. “We’re pleased that GH London is now recognising its workers’ contribution with a significant pay increase.”


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