Air travellers face the threat of pre-Christmas airport chaos if a two-day strike threatened by ground handlers goes ahead.
Workers at Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports backed strike action in a ballot by 83% in a row with ground handling company dnata over pay.
The Unite union warned that more than 460 members based mainly at Heathrow would walk out for two days from Tuesday if the company refuses to negotiate.
The union called on dnata to engage in talks via the conciliation service Acas to resolve the dispute over a ‘divisive’ pay offer.
The row centres on a pay offer which the union claims will see supervisors get 4.5% – double the 2.25% of other staff.
Unite represents around a quarter of the 1,900 Dnata staff who carry out check-in, ground crew and cargo duties at Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports.
Dnata’s main customers are Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, Iran Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airways, New Zealand Airways, Pakistan International Airlines, US Airways, Eva Air, Qantas and Oman Airways.
Unite regional officer Kevin Hall said: “Strike action is very much a last resort and our members are mindful of the potential disruption it could cause.
“But they feel frustrated with an employer that has refused point blank to go to Acas and negotiate in a sensible manner.
“Instead hardworking staff have seen their supervisors enjoy a pay rise double the amount that was imposed on them.
“Our members are angry over the inequality being shown within dnata and we would urge management to join us at Acas to reach a fair pay deal.”
A spokesman for dnata told the Daily Mail that contingency plans to help passengers were being implemented, adding: “Unite members are a minority of our team in the UK.”
Any strike action at Heathrow would affect Terminals 2, 3 and 4. The walkout will not affect Terminal 5, where British Airways is based.
A Heathrow spokesman said it would have extra staff on hand, adding: “Passengers should allow plenty of time for travelling through the airport and speak to their airline if they have any concerns.”
A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic said: “We are being kept informed of the situation. Should the strike action take place, we are confident that dnata will have contingency plans to keep disruption to passengers to a minimum.”
Gatwick confirmed that as Dnata has only a small operation at the airport, no passengers would be affected if the strike goes ahead.
Sourced from Travel Weekly