August 23, 2008

Chaos Set to Hit Airport After Baggage Handlers Strike

The union at the centre of a strike set to disrupt flights at Stansted Airport on Bank Holiday Monday has accused management of refusing to hold talks to settle the dispute.

More than 30 members of the GMB union, who operate luggage- scanning equipment at Stansted, are due to walk out for 24 hours in a row over pay.

GMB leaders said the company involved, Airfield Services, was refusing to hold talks at the conciliation service Acas.

There have been no talks between the two sides since the strike was announced last week.

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."

The union has urged airport operator BAA to intervene in the row but warned that industrial action now looked "inevitable".

Airfield Services is part of the same group as Gate Gourmet which was involved in a bitter dispute with catering workers at Heathrow airport which caused travel chaos.

Before yesterday's allegation from the GMB, Airfield Services said it was liaising with Acas and the GMB, but added: "As of now the protest is still going ahead."

"We are working hard to avert a strike and to conclude the current pay discussions.

"However, we have full contingency arrangements in place to ensure that the usual high standard of security is maintained with minimal disruption for passengers."

It was after long talks at Acas earlier this week that other airport strikes that threatened Bank Holiday travel chaos were called off.

The disputes involving the GMB and the Unite unions would have led to passengers 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.

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