Summer holiday flights from Southampton airport would be disrupted, if firefighters take strike action over adverse pensions’ changes proposed by the airports’ owner, AGS.
The firefighters, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, are likely to be joined by firefighters from Prospect in balloting for industrial action. Without the firefighters being on duty, the airport, which deals with nearly 1.8 million passengers a year, would have to close down.
Unite’s ballot, for strike action and industrial action short of a strike, will close on Wednesday 13 July.
The ballot by the Southampton workers follows on from the decision last week that about 480 Unite members at Glasgow and Aberdeen airports were also balloting for strike action, after 98 per cent of workers rejected proposed changes to the pensions’ schemes.
AGS Airports is a partnership between Ferrovial and Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA), established in 2014, to acquire Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports.
Unite said that AGS’ proposals to make significant, and detrimental, changes to the pensions’ schemes will adversely impact on retirement incomes, given that pensions are, in effect, deferred wages.
Unite tabled a counter proposal to AGS management that maintained a defined benefit scheme, but reduced the employer’s contribution from 44 per cent to 20-21 per cent.
The Unite proposal would have meant a yearly saving of over £3.5 million. The proposal was rejected by AGS which then put a proposal to cut the cost rate to 17 per cent which equates to a further saving of £640,000.
Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone said: “Unite has been in negotiations with AGS over a number of months to come to agreement to significantly reduce the defined benefit (DB) pension scheme costs, then at the point when an agreement was achievable AGS gave 60 days notice to close the DB scheme.
“Following a meeting requested by Unite to put forward a proposal to keep the DB scheme, the company’s response left our Southampton members with no other option, but to ballot our members for industrial action.
“Unite’s door is fully open to meet with the company to resolve this issue and avoid disruption to the traveling public.”