Scores of Heathrow baggage handlers from two separate companies are gearing up for strike action mainly over pay.
Specialist baggage handlers at Global Baggage Solutions Ltd, who are responsible for finding and repatriating lost baggage for distraught passengers at Heathrow, have rejected a paltry pay offer of only 32 pence an hour for 2020, after which their employer refused to negotiate. Also angered by the company refusing to put forward any pay offer at all for 2019, the baggage handlers are now preparing for strike action.
Unite has called two four-day strikes, with the first set to take place from Sunday, February 2 to Wednesday, February 5 and the second strike from February 22 to February 25.
Unite is seeking an increase in pay to ensure all workers receive the London Living Wage of £10.75 an hour and senior handlers receive a higher payment.
Commenting on the Global Baggage Solutions Ltd dispute, Unite regional officer Clare Keogh said, “Heathrow passengers need to be aware that if their baggage is mislaid, it could disappear forever while our members are on strike.”
“Our members will no longer accept low pay and this dispute is completely a result of the refusal by Global Baggage Solutions to negotiate,” she added.
“Our members are taking strike action as a last resort as life is becoming a daily struggle to survive on poverty pay rates.
“There is still time for strike action to be avoided if Global Baggage Solutions is prepared to make a realistic pay offer and return to the negotiating table.”
Meanwhile, Heathrow ground handlers employed by Vanderlande Industries are likewise embroiled in a dispute over pay – as well as attempts at union-busting — as they prepare to ballot over strike action.
Unite represents around 80 Vanderlande workers who are responsible for loading freight on and off IAG planes, including those flying under the British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia brands.
Vanderlande staff also operate the Terminal Three luggage belt as well as transporting passenger baggage to and from the terminal, which services One World Alliance, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates.
Unite has said that the breakdown of industrial relations with Vanderlande began after members rejected a 2.5 per cent pay offer. The dispute was on the verge of being resolved in October after talks mediated by the conciliation service Acas. But after increasing their pay offer to three per cent, Vanderlande announced it would not accept that its recognition agreement with Unite applied to employees that had recently joined the firm.
Commenting, Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King said, “Vanderlande’s actions have been completely unacceptable. Its attempts of isolating and controlling staff with underhand tactics have merely strengthened our members’ resolve.
“I am sure that IAG will not be happy to hear that its air freight services could face major disruption because Vanderlande’s attempt to strong arm our members has resulted in a shutdown of their operations,” he added.
“Nor will the airlines using Terminal Three be pleased at the prospect of passengers being unable to drop-off or collect their baggage and the potential delays this will cause to air travel.
“Unite has been left with no choice but to ballot for strike action. We urge Vanderlande to radically rethink its attempts at union-busting, re-engage Unite with a different approach and offer a pay deal our members can accept.”
The ballot for strike action opened today (January 17) and closes on February 14.