Workers go on strike to leverage labor power and bargain with their employers, which often leads to a complete halt in the business for a specific number of days. When airline workers strike, carriers not only have to bear the brunt of furious travelers but also quickly sort out labor negotiations.
Currently, workers at London’s Gatwick International Airport and Heathrow International Airport are threatening to strike in disputes over inadequate pay. Last year, Gatwick Airport Limited proposed a three-year deal that would have seen workers receive a pay increase of 2% along with £250 for the first two years. For the third year, the workers would receive a pay hike in line with the consumer price index inflation rate plus £250.
Unite, the second-largest trade union in the UK stated that the three-year deal was acceptable for starters which would pay a new employee up to up to £7,000 per annum, which is lesser than the amount paid to an old staff undertaking the same role. Gatwick Airport has employed over 2000 Unite members as security, staff, firefighters, terminal operators, engineers and surface transport workers. Surprisingly, around 98% of the members voted to reject the three-year deal.
Early this month, Gatwick Airport reported a profit of £137 million for a period of six months. Unite stated, “The airport is fantastically profitable as a result of the hard work of our members and they believe they should be properly rewarded for their hard work and loyalty.” The trade union has decided to hold a meeting with the airport authorities in order to negotiate. In case, the authorities do not improvise the deal, Unite will ballot its members on strike action.
In response to the remarks by Unite, a Gatwick spokesperson stated that they are keen to reach an agreement in order to make sure the passengers do not get affected at any point.
On the other hand, baggage handlers at Heathrow Airport, employed by Global Baggage Solutions, have planned a strike after rejecting a pay deal which, otherwise, would have increased their pay by 32 pence an hour. The eight-day strike will be held on two phases; the first strike will be held from February 2 to 5 while the second strike will be from February 22 to 25.
Unite’s 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.”
The union demands that the employees be paid the basic wage of £10.75 an hour which subsequently increases for experienced members. The workers have planned the strike as a last resort as they are struggling to survive on a measly pay. In addition, Clare stated that the strike can be averted if the organization makes a realistic pay offer.
Apart from these two strikes, the Unite members at London’s Heathrow Airport, employed by Vanderlande Industries are planning to start a separate strike in disputes over pay. Unite represents at least 80 Vanderlande workers who are responsible for loading freight on and off planes of International Airlines Group (IAG) comprising British Airways, Air Lingus, Iberia Brands, and others. These Gatwick and Heathrow strikes will result in widespread disruption at the airport.
British Airways will be affected the most owing to the upcoming Gatwick and Heathrow strikes as the carrier’s main hub is Heathrow Airport. Last year, British Airways’ pilots staged a strike for 48 hours; it is the first strike in the carrier’s 100-year history. The strike led to at least 1700 flight cancellations, affecting nearly 300,000 passengers. British Airways faced around $100 million in losses owing to the strike.