Unite has announced strikes by ground handlers and passenger assistance workers at Gatwick Airport later this month in a row over pay.
The union claims the industrial action will cause “severe disruption” – however, The Independent’s travel correspondent, Simon Calder, calls any predictions of chaos “overstated”.
The strikes will involve more than 230 workers. Unite members working for ground handling company Red Handling will walk out for four days from 18 August, and a further four days from 25 August, which includes the August bank holiday weekend.
Members of the union employed by Wilson James, which operates Gatwick’s passenger assistance contract, will walk out for three days from 18 August , and a further three days from 22 August.
Unite recently called off a series of strikes by its members at the airport after reaching agreements on pay disputes.
The union claims Red Handling and Wilson James have “failed to make offers that meet the workers’ expectations”.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Red Handling and Wilson James need to wake up and smell the coffee.
“Other employers at the airport are prepared to pay the going rate and there is no excuse why they shouldn’t do the same. There is no way our members will accept a real-terms pay cut and poverty pay.
“Unite’s complete focus on the jobs, pay and conditions of its members will mean that our members at Gatwick will receive the union’s unflinching support.”
Red Handling is responsible for ground handling for Norse Atlantic, Norwegian, Delta, TAP Air Portugal and Saudi at Gatwick.
Unite believes 216 flights could be disrupted during the first four-day strike, which it claims will affect around 45,000 passengers.
A Gatwick spokesperson said: ”We are aware of the recent ballot results and encourage staff at Wilson James, Red Handling and their union to reach a resolution.
“We will support Wilson James, who hold the contract for providing assistance to passengers, in their contingency planning. We will also support the airlines affected – who hold the contracts with Red Handling – with their contingency plans to ensure that as many flights as possible operate as scheduled.”
Simon Calder, travel Correspondent for the The Independent, said: “Predictions of chaos at Gatwick are, once again, overstated. What the Unite union seems to be doing is moving through the handling companies one by one, announcing industrial action to get the immediate attention of the employers. This has proved effective so far this summer, with improved offers secured from the main ground handlers.
“I am pretty confident that the special assistance staff at Wilson James, who look after passengers with reduced mobility will reach a settlement. Likewise, if I had a booking with one of the airlines looked after by Red Handling, I would not be fretting unduly about possible cancellation or delay.
“I look forward to the announcement from Unite that the union has, once again. prevailed. But I urge caution: the constant dire warnings of delays and cancellations have a corrosive effect on travellers.
“Unite’s prediction this time is of ‘severe disruption throughout Gatwick airport’ . I don’t share that assessment, but I imagine some prospective passengers will be taking their business elsewhere, to the detriment of the union members.”