Britain: Airport workers to strike

Unite members at a picket outside London’s Heathrow airport.

On August 12, members of the Unite trade union employed at six airports by the privatised British Airports Authority voted to strike by a margin of three to one, rejecting a one percent pay rise offered by BAA. The 6185 Unite members at the six affected airports — firefighters, security staff, engineers and support staff — accepted a pay freeze in 2009.

BAA also withdrew a proposed £450 bonus for the airport workers and informed all staff that they would lose out on their annual airport incentive payment of £700 for 2010.

The airports affected are Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, in Scotland and, in England, Stansted, Southampton and Heathrow, the world’s busiest. Collectively, these airports service 300,000 passengers and 2500 flights each day.

Under British labour laws, the vote empowers Unite to call on workers to walk out, providing a weeks’ notice is given. This means that industrial action could start from August 23.

BAA and airlines are concerned that there could be strike action over the August Bank Holiday weekend (August 28-30), one of the busiest times for air travel in Britain.

Unite national officer for civil aviation, Brendan Gold, said: “This ballot result reflects what our members feel about BAA's current attitude. For the past four months BAA has refused to even meet with us.”

Unite national officer Brian Boyd said: “Last year BAA's employees accepted a pay freeze to help the company because they understood the difficult financial operating environment within civil aviation.

“A pay offer of one per cent plus the withdrawal of two payments worth over £1,000 is simply confrontational. CEO Colin Matthews recently hailed BAA's financial performance and passenger numbers at Heathrow reached a record high in July.”

A spokesperson for airline Ryanair described the workers as “selfish and underworked”.