Gatwick Airport: One strike off, but one to go ahead

An aerial view of London Gatwick Airport
Photo Credit: Gatwick Airport

Unite, the UK’s leading union, has made a decision to postpone one of the two planned strikes set to commence at Gatwick Airport this week.

This development comes as a result of a substantially improved offer put forth by Wilson James, the operator of the passenger assistance program at the airport.

The strike involving Wilson James workers, originally scheduled for the upcoming weekend, has been temporarily suspended to allow union members to vote on the new offer.

However, the strike involving ground handling company Red Handling remains active. Despite further talks and an additional offer, it appears that the new proposal may not meet the expectations of union members.

The delay in resolving the issue with Red Handling, according to Unite’s Sharon Graham, is attributed to the company’s reluctance to align its offer with other employers at the airport. This has led to accusations of greed rather than necessity.

The ballot results are anticipated to be announced on Thursday, August 17, shortly before the scheduled strike start time of 00:01 on Friday, August 18. The strike is planned to conclude at 23:59 on Monday, August 21.

Concerns and Resolutions

Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, expressed concern over the ongoing strike situation involving Red Handling.

“Gatwick’s passengers planning to fly with one of the affected airlines will be rightly angry and confused over how every other dispute at the airport has been resolved, but this one hasn’t been,” said Graham.

“This is due to Red Handling’s failure to make an offer in line with other employers at the airport, it is a wealthy company, and its refusal is all about greed, not need.”

Potential Impact and Disruption

Should the Red Handling strike proceed, it is expected to have an impact on ground handling services for several airlines, including Norse Atlantic, Norwegian, Delta, TAP Air Portugal, and Saudi.

Unite estimates that the initial four-day strike could affect a total of 216 flights and disrupt travel plans for approximately 45,000 passengers. An additional strike is planned from August 25 to August 28.

Furthermore, Unite has raised a security concern related to some members of Red Handling’s check-in staff not having Gatwick Airport ID, a violation of airport regulations. Gatwick Airport has initiated an investigation into this matter.

Negotiations and Resolution

Unite’s regional officer, Dominic Rothwell, highlighted the potential for significant delays and disruptions across Gatwick Airport if the strikes proceed. Rothwell emphasized that Unite remains open to negotiations, contingent on Red Handling’s willingness to substantially improve its offer.

This development underlines Unite’s efforts to engage with various stakeholders in addressing worker concerns and reaching resolutions.

While most of the disputes at the airport have been resolved without resorting to strike actions, the situation with Red Handling remains the only outstanding issue.

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
4 Min Read
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