Gatwick Airport workers, who look after an estimated 670,000 passengers annually, many with disabilities, will strike for six days in the next two months in a row over a ‘massive inequality’ in pay.
Thousands of passengers who need assistance will be affected when more than 250 workers stage three 48 hour stoppages from 05.00 on 20 November, ending at 05.00 on 22 November. The strike action will be repeated at the same times on 26/28 November and on 21/23 December.
The workers, members of Unite the union, employed by logistics giant Wilson James, voted by 98 per cent for strike action. The union estimates that its workers look after about 14,000 passengers a week.
The dispute centres on a demand for a £1 an hour pay rise for the year starting 1 April 2018 to begin to bridge the gap with those airport staff pushing luggage trollies who earn significantly more than Wilson James staff. Those assisting disabled passengers are paid just £8.27 per hour.
Unite yesterday called on the bosses at Wilson James to get around the table for constructive talks on pay, before the first strikes start to bite.
Unite regional officer Jamie Major said:
“Our members have given us an overwhelming mandate for strike action in their dispute over this massive inequality in pay.
“We now have a generous window of opportunity for the management to sit down with us and negotiate a decent pay award before the six days of strike action kick in this month and in December.
“The last thing our members want is to cause inconvenience and distress to those passengers who rely on their services during their time at Gatwick Airport – but they feel they have been forced into a corner by a tight-fisted management who refuse to address the pay inequality issue.
“There is no rhyme nor reason why pushing luggage is valued more than helping people – perhaps, it’s because airlines can charge more for heavy luggage to increase profits.
“It remains a mystery to our members. Gatwick Airport needs to get its priorities right, otherwise it will suffer huge reputational damage in the run-up to the Christmas holiday season.
“The current pay of £8.27 an hour for our members is less than the voluntary UK living wage which is currently £8.75 outside London – and the south east is one of the most expensive places to live in the country.”
When asked by the Aviation Tribune, a spokesperson for Wilson James said:
“We are disappointed in this ballot decision, but we remain committed to continuing the dialog in good faith with our colleagues at Unite the Union to achieve a mutually agreeable outcome. In the meantime we are preparing contingency plans to minimise passenger disruption during the periods identified for industrial action.”