SIX HUNDRED TGWU union members working for Servisair at Gatwick struck solidly for 48 hours last weekend in a dispute that is rapidly turning into a test case across the air industry.
They were due to strike again this weekend over the victimisation of their senior union rep and the threat of open-ended flexible working.
“This is, as much as anything, a battle for our union,” said one picket. “Management are going for our convenor because they want to behead our organisation and impose what they want.”
The workers are considering moving to more extended strike action and stepping up from 24-hour to 48-hour strikes. This has already put the baggage handling company under pressure.
It faced delays on some flights on Saturday, the first day of half term for many schools.
Workers at other companies in the airport have confirmed that Servisair is having to deploy three times as many staff as normal to get the work done on strike days. The TGWU puts the cost of the scabbing operation so far at over £500,000.
That does not include bills Servisair has yet to receive from companies which it has contracts with and which have had to run their own baggage handling operation on strike days.
Despite a propaganda blitz by management, the spirit on the picket line was determined.
Toots of support from cars and workers from other companies at the airport underlined the widespread support for the Servisair strikers.
“There’s been a magnificent response,” said Ian McCoulough, a TGWU regional industrial organiser. “Donations to the hardship fund include £1,000 from one TGWU branch at Heathrow.
“We’ve had all sorts of people stopping by the picket lines to donate things. Our aim has not been to affect the travelling public but to affect Servisair, and there’s no doubt the action is effective.”
News that the hardship fund is now up and running boosted strikers’ confidence at the weekend.
“Of course, no one wants to be out on strike,” said one picket, “But there really is a principle at stake. One thing Servisair has done is bring us all together. There’s a real sense of solidarity.”
There is also a strong feeling that workers have given up so many conditions over the years that there is nothing left to give.
That is shared among many workers across airports in Britain, where more disputes are taking place than for many years.
TALKS WERE due to take place between the GMB union and management of Groundstar at Stansted airport this week after the union announced three strike dates.
If the company does not improve its pay offer baggage handlers are due to walk out on Monday and Wednesday of next week.
Groundstar workers are paid as little as £11,000 a year and a maximum of £12,500.
THE TGWU union is investigating reports that Menzies Aviation used former workers and agency staff to try to break a strike by its bus drivers at Heathrow airport last week.
Parent company John Menzies Group made profits of £25.2 million last year, but is resisting a 5.4 percent pay rise for its drivers who transport staff around the Heathrow complex.
OVER 4,000 TGWU union members working for BAA airport operators across Britain have rejected the company’s “final” pay offer and are set to ballot for industrial action.
A massive majority threw out the offer at the end of last month and a delegates meeting then decided to set up a ballot. If the ballot goes ahead the result should be known by the end of next month.