Unite Warns of Severe Disruption at Gatwick Airport Due to Strikes
Unite, the UK’s leading trade union, has issued a warning to holidaymakers about potential “severe disruption” at Gatwick Airport this month. The announcement comes after ground staff employed by two contracted firms at the London airport announced a series of strikes over a pay dispute.
According to Unite, more than 230 workers will participate in the strikes, which are expected to take place on multiple dates in August. The union estimates that the first wave of industrial action could disrupt 216 flights, affecting approximately 45,000 passengers.
The workers planning to strike include baggage handlers and airplane ground staff employed by Red Handling, a company that provides services to airlines such as Norse Atlantic, Norwegian, Delta, and TAP Air Portugal. They are scheduled to strike for four days starting from Friday, August 18, and an additional four days starting from Friday, August 25, which includes the August bank holiday weekend.
Unite claims that Red Handling staff currently earn between £11 and £12 per hour, which the union considers to be among the lowest rates for such roles. Another group of workers participating in the strikes are union members employed by Wilson James, the company responsible for Gatwick’s passenger assistance contract across all airlines. These workers, who currently earn £10.93 per hour, plan to strike for three days starting from Friday, August 18, and an additional three days starting from Tuesday, August 22.
Unite’s General Secretary, Sharon Graham, expressed the union’s support for its members at Gatwick and called on Red Handling and Wilson James to pay their employees fair wages. Graham emphasized that other employers at the airport have offered higher pay rates, and there is no reason why Red Handling and Wilson James should not do the same. Unite is committed to protecting the jobs, pay, and conditions of its members and will provide unwavering support to its members at Gatwick.
In response to the strike announcement, a spokesperson for Wilson James described it as “disappointing” and stated that the company had made an “above inflation offer” to its staff. Wilson James is currently engaged in dialog and conciliation efforts supported by ACAS in the hopes of reaching an acceptable agreement for all parties. The company is also preparing contingency plans to minimize the impact of possible strike activity on passengers.
London Gatwick Airport has expressed awareness of the strike ballot results and has encouraged Wilson James, Red Handling, and their union to find a resolution. The airport will support Wilson James in their contingency planning for passenger assistance services and will also assist the affected airlines, which have contracts with Red Handling, in their contingency plans to ensure minimal disruption to scheduled flights.
Unite has stated that it is fighting for better wages for its members in line with their expectations, especially after workers at other companies who voted to strike were granted double-digit pay increases. The union remains committed to advocating for fair pay and improved working conditions for its members.
As the strike action looms, holidaymakers and passengers traveling through Gatwick Airport should stay informed about potential disruptions and make necessary arrangements to minimize any inconvenience.