Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Baggage handlers' unions in talks over Stansted airport Easter strike

Stansted-airport-strike-008 Representatives of baggage handlers at Stansted airport say they are hopeful that they will reach agreement to avert Easter strike action as talks continue between unions and employers.

Negotiations are progressing between the GMB and Unite unions and Swissport, the firm which employs 150 people to handle baggage for a number of airlines including Ryanair, Thomson and Thomas Cook. A strike has been called for three of the four days of the holiday weekend, excluding Easter Sunday.

GMB organiser Gary Pearce said he would push for the involvement of Acas if talks did not produce results within another day. The dispute is over new contracts and shift patterns which the union claims could cost workers up to £1,000.

Pearce said: "We want an agreement to take the shift pattern off the table. We want to know that the company is willing to listen to what we say – we've got a very strong mandate from our members for action."

Swissport says a drop in flights at Stansted has significantly reduced its revenues and the new working patterns are needed to cut costs. Richard Prince, general manager of Swissport Stansted, said the changes would mean avoiding job losses.

Previous standoffs with Swissport have been resolved before threatened strikes went ahead.

Stansted airport is advising passengers to check in as normal, whether industrial action goes ahead or not, and does not expect its usual operations to be disrupted. However, it says if passengers are in doubt about the status of their flight, they should check their airline's website, and they should arrive at least two hours before departure.

Ryanair has said it will operate its flights with carry-on baggage only should the strike go ahead to ensure its "passengers are not held to ransom".

Ryanair has meanwhile called on the EU commission to "remove the right to strike" from French air traffic controllers as the airline blamed their action on Monday for the cancellation of 134 flights. Spokesman Stephen McNamara said: "The solution to this problem is simple: remove their right to strike in exactly the same way that air traffic controllers in the USA are prevented by law from striking."

The Guardian

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