A STRIKE ballot of 8,000 TGWU union members at key airports was due to start this week, prompting headlines about holiday misery and chaos.
The airports are Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh. If the ballot is successful, strikes could be called on August bank holiday weekend.
Both the TGWU and the GMB unions have rejected a pay offer from British Airways (BA). The offer ties workers to inflation-only pay rises for three years.
The GMB also looks set to ballot its members at the airports over the offer.
Andrew Dodgson, from the TGWU, explained why airport workers are so angry:
“There are two groups of workers involved. The first is baggage handlers and drivers. The second is check-in staff and admin in the terminals—mostly women workers.
“The issue we have with BA is pay. Our pay anniversary is January. That’s when a pay rise should have kicked in. It’s now July.
“There’s always a bit of a time lag, but seven months is a long time by any standard.
“Our members are frustrated because the BA board insists there is no new money on offer. We want a deal based on inflation, but with a lump sum.
“BA relies on advance bookings, and any hint of industrial action hits them.
“So we reckon this dispute has already cost them more in the revenue from lost bookings than meeting our pay claim would cost.
“BA directors got 5.6 percent on what are already six-figure pay packages.
“Baggage handlers earn an average of £14,000 a year, and check-in staff get between £11,000 and £12,000, although many are part time so earn a lot less.
“Over the last three years, the union has helped BA make £860 million savings. Some 13,000 jobs have been lost, which means extra work for everyone left.
“The unofficial walkouts by check-in staff last summer were evidence of their mood. Then the issue was working practices. Now it’s pay.
“Our members want decent pay, but they want more than that—they want to be treated with respect.
“The company is making £230 million in profit a year. In two years time that could be much higher.
“So shouldn’t the people working so hard to achieve that high level of profit also enjoy some reward?”