Pay dispute escalates

Britain in grip of Christmas strike action

Edinburgh airport (photo by Terry Murden)
Edinburgh airport (photo by Terry Murden)

Britain faces a wave of strikes from airport, postal and rail workers this week amid accusations that trade unions are attempting to undermine the UK government.

Staff at post offices will walk out while Christmas holidaymakers could face disruption to their travel plans after 1,500 baggage handlers, check-in staff and cargo crew at 18 airports announced strike action over pay.

In a private meeting last month Sean Hoyle, president of the RMT rail union, which is organising strikes on Southern Rail, declared its ‘rule No 1’ was to ‘strive to replace the capitalist system with a socialist order’.

Mr Hoyle told a conference hosted by the Socialist Party last month: ‘Any trade unionist with any sense wants to bring down this bloody working-class-hating Tory government.

BA cabin crew and Virgin Atlantic pilots have also announced industrial action over the festive period.

Unite members employed by Swissport voted by 62.5% to reject a 4.65% three-year pay deal and  intend to walk out on 23 and 24 December.

The were also unhappy that changes to terms and conditions had been linked to the pay deal, including a freeze on overtime payments.

It was not clear which airports are affected, but Unite members work for Swissport at Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, Gatwick, Leeds-Bradford, Luton, Manchester and Stansted, Cargo workers at Heathrow could also take action.

Birmingham, Southampton and Newcastle airports could be the worst hit as their check-in and baggage handling services are entirely operated by Swissport.

Unite also has members at Bristol, Bournemouth, Doncaster and East Midlands airports.

Glasgow Airport tonight tweeted: “We will be meeting with Swissport to find out what contingency plans they will be putting in place.”

Oliver Richardson, Unite’s national officer for civil air transport, said members were taking action as a last resort. He said: “We appreciate that this is a very busy time of year at the UK’s airports and that’s why we are calling for the company to engage in constructive talks under the auspices of Acas to resolve this dispute.”

British Airways cabin crew based at Heathrow airport are to strike on Christmas Day and Boxing Day in a row over pay and conditions.

The action, backed by the Unite union, could involve up to 4,500 staff on “mixed fleet” contracts who joined the airline since 2010.

Unite said they were on lower pay than other staff. British Airways called the strike “calculated” and “completely unnecessary”.

Virgin Atlantic pilots have also voted for industrial action short of a strike in a row over union recognition.

The Professional Pilots’ Union (PPU) said 88.6% of its members had voted in favour of the move, and that the turnout had been 80.3%.

From 23 December, “pilot goodwill” will be removed, which could mean some flights not being covered, the PPU said.

Virgin said it did not expect flights to be affected.



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