AROUND 1,000 workers at Swissport UK and Swissport Cargo staged a 48-hour strike at Heathrow airport last Sunday and Monday. The workers are members of the TGWU union. Early on a wet and windy Sunday morning on the picket line, they told Socialist Worker why they were out: 'We have been pushed from pillar to post. Our work load has increased dramatically. You don't get time to wipe your arse any more. A few years ago we moved around 100 tonnes per shift. Now its more like 225 tonnes,' said one picket at the cargo depot. 'We are under so much pressure,' added another. 'We want a pay rise. But it's about more than money.'
Another picket said, 'We work so hard-sometimes 12 hours without a break. It's backbreaking work. If you get a bad back or do a shoulder in, they just want to give you the sack. Health and safety has gone out of the window.'
Up at the Swissport UK picket line, check-in staff and baggage handlers were just as keen to describe their conditions.
A woman worker told Socialist Worker, 'We have been threatened by management, telling us we will lose our bonuses and they won't give us references if we leave. People are scared for their jobs.' Another picket added, 'I have worked here 16 years, and I've been sold to four different companies. They say we are losing money, but if that's true how come there's always a company queuing up to buy us out? They are telling the press that we want a 16 or 18 percent pay rise. That's rubbish. We are after the rate of inflation plus 2 or 3 percent. We don't want to be here, but there comes a time when you have to stand up for yourself.' Another 48 hour strike is planned for Friday 14 and Saturday 15 November.
Swissport made £46 million last year.