August 22, 2008

Unions Call Off Strike Action but Stansted Flights Could Still Suffer

Planned strikes by airport workers that would have caused bank holiday misery were called off yesterday.

The dispute involved airport services business Swissport, and cabin staff and baggage handlers who are members of the Unite and GMB unions. It would have affected Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester airports.

After hours of talks at conciliation service Acas, both unions said they had suspended the planned strikes.

But flights at Stansted could be affected as a separate GMB dispute at Stansted involving more than 30 security scanners employed by Airfield Services is due to go ahead on bank holiday Monday.

The Swissport dispute involved pay, with the GMB and Unite putting a new, improved offer to members.

Before the breakthrough, air passengers were facing 24-hour strikes at Gatwick and Stansted on bank holiday Monday and on Friday August 29 as well as 24-hour strikes at Manchester on Wednesday August 27 and Monday September 1.

Gary Pearce of the GMB said: "As a result of today's talks between the unions and Swissport we have a new improved offer. Because of the improved offer all planned industrial action is suspended until we get the reaction of members.

"This does not affect the industrial action for scanner workers who are employed by Airport Services."

A spokesman for Unite said: "We have suspended the industrial action. After 12 hours of talks at Acas we have a revised offer in which improvements have been made and we will now ballot members."

The GMB yesterday met bosses of airport operator BAA to ask them to put pressure on Airfield Services to improve a pay offer to the security scanner workers.

Mr Pearce said: "It looks to me that Airfield Services are happy to see disruption to the travelling public on (bank holiday) Monday."

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