Talk may stop planned strikes at Stansted Airport which would affect Christmas travellers

PUBLISHED: 12:53 19 December 2016 | UPDATED: 12:53 19 December 2016

Baggage handlers at Stansted Airport are no longer going to strike on December 23 and 24.

Baggage handlers at Stansted Airport are no longer going to strike on December 23 and 24.

Archant

Strikes will hit Christmas travellers flying through Stansted Airport over the festive weekend unless talks tomorrow (December 20) can quickly resolve an ongoing pay dispute with baggage handlers.

More than 1,500 workers for Swissport, a company that handles cargo for many major airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, and Luton, will currently strike on the December 23 and 24 because they say a three year pay deal is not in line with inflation.

Check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew are all due to strike.

An airline using Swissport, Ryanair, have said that all flights are schedules to operate normally, but a hold-luggage only policy may be put in place and it will update flyers with any plans.

A talk is taking place tomorrow between the union, ACAS, and Swissport, which the baggage handling company hopes will end the dispute and avoid industrial action.

Swissport has offered to give ACAS the final word – whatever it decides is binding – in exchange for the union, Unite, calling off the strike.

The union says Swissport is planning to seriously erode terms and conditions in contracts, and wants management to take part in “constructive negotiations”, with ACAS as a regulator.

Unite’s national officer for civil air transport Oliver Richardson said Unite’s door is “open 24/7” for talks about the issue.

He said: “Our members are only taking this industrial action as a last resort in a bid to reach a fair settlement – our members have not had a pay rise since 2014.”

Mr Richardson spoke about the pay plan offered for the next three years: “When you break down the headline figures – one per cent in 2015, 1.25 per cent in 2016 and 2.4 per cent in 2017 – they are barely keeping up with inflation.

“The company only wants these increases to be applicable to basic pay and not the other elements that make up ‘pay’ such as overtime.”

He said the baggage handling company have a “high-handed attitude”.

Swissport have said none of its offers made to Unite since April 2015 have been put to members for consideration, and called into question the validity of the ballot which rejected the original offer.

A spokesman for Swissport said: “This is another in a series of recent examples where a minority of trade union members are acting in a cynical fashion to disrupt the travel plans of the public and attempt to hold employers to ransom, without giving thought to the long term job security of staff, and the commercial viability of employers.

“We operate in a very low margin and highly competitive sector and our overall pay and conditions already compare favourably with our competitors.

“We therefore believe the offer already made is very reasonable and would have been welcomed by the majority of our staff.”

A spokesman for Stansted Airport said: “We are aware of this potential action and are contacting the airlines which use Swissport to understand their contingency plans to minimise any disruption were the strikes to go ahead.”

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