Planned strikes at BAA this weekend have been called off when Swissport, a division of Grupo Ferrovial which owns BAA, agreed to enter negotiations with the union. Sadly, the employers of baggage handlers have refused to go to ACAS to talk with the workers’ representatives and are instead trying to break the strike.
In 2005 Gate Gourmet sacked 670 workers and replaced them with non-union workers based overseas, who were paid less and had worse conditions. The sacked workers, mostly Asian women, were informed of their being sacked by a megaphone in the car park at Heathrow.
A Grunwick style struggle ensued, starting with immediate wildcat action from baggage handlers. Sadly, the TGWU failed to challenge the Thatcherite anti-union laws and condemned this act of solidarity.
Airfield Services is owned by Gate Aviation.
From The News Line:
GATE GOURMET TACTICS! – GMB accuses Airfield Services
The GMB trade union yesterday accused Stansted security contractor Airfield Services of Gate Gourmet tactics.
It said that Airfield Services was showing gross irresponsibility in refusing to accept an invitation to ACAS to avoid disruption to the travelling public and warned a Gate Gourmet-style lock-out situation is brewing.
Airfield Services on Thursday night refused an invitation from GMB and airports owner BAA to go to ACAS to seek a resolution to the pay dispute that has given rise to a strike on Monday 25th August 2008 at Stansted Airport.
33 GMB members who operate sophisticated security scanning equipment to check luggage going in to the holds of planes gave notice a week ago of strike action in protest at a pay offer of 1.5%.
Since then there have been no direct talks between the company and the union.
Airfield Services refusal to go to ACAS means strike action on Monday is now inevitable, the GMB added.
The union said: ‘The consequence is likely to be disruption to the travelling public using Stansted Airport and an increased security risk to everybody in the airport and on planes leaving the airport due to the lack of qualified and trained luggage scanners.’
GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny said: ‘It is an act of gross irresponsibility that a contractor engaged in operating an airport is refusing an offer of conciliation to resolve a long standing pay dispute.
‘Going to ACAS should be a condition of holding a BAA contract. Even at this late stage BAA should insist that Airfield Services go to ACAS or be sacked as the contractor.
‘Airfield Services is part of the same group as Gate Gourmet which caused severe disruption at Heathrow Airport a few years ago with their macho industrial relations style.
‘We are seeing the same posturing in this dispute which could be resolved by an inflation-level award that would add a mere £300 per week to the company wage bill.
‘The company claim that they cannot afford this amount is not credible since they are owned by 40 major financial institutions worth billions.
‘Total responsibility for disruption and the additional risk to the travelling public and those on planes leaving the airport due to the lack of qualified and trained luggage scanners lies at the door of Airfield Services.
‘GMB will insist that the company and BAA adhere to the law against strike breaking by using agency staff.
‘GMB is writing today to the law enforcement body, to BAA and to the agencies body to make sure they know what the law says and the penalties for breaking it.’