Staff at Stansted Airport will strike for 17 days in a long-running pay dispute, leaving thousands of easyJet passengers to face ‘check-in chaos’, says Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union.
Unite represents 43 passenger service agents employed by Stobart Aviation Services Limited, which has the easyJet contract at the Essex airport. The strikes will start from Thursday 25 July on the eve of the peak holiday season.
The low paid check-in workers voted unanimously to strike over the company’s refusal to pay wages in line with similar companies at Stansted. The workers are also striking over their employer’s refusal to recognise Unite as a trade union for collective bargaining purposes; and for its breakdown in industrial relations.
The strikes have also been fuelled by the controversy over Stobart’s chief executive Warwick Brady possibly pocketing a £30 million bonus which is linked to any future sale of Southend Airport.
The strike dates are 25 to 29 July; 2 to 5 August; 9 to 12 August; 16 to 19 August; and 23 to 27 August.
Unite apologises in advance to affected passengers, but says that the best way to help avoid the dispute is if the public contacts easyJet and asks the airline to insist that Stobart does everything it can to genuinely resolve the situation.
Unite regional officer Mark Barter said: “There is no getting away from it; these 17 days of strike action will cause severe disruption to thousands of easyJet passengers using Stansted for their summer holidays.
“A major bone of contention is that workers employed by other companies at Stansted are being paid up to 20 per cent more for doing the same job.
“But our Stobart members experience staffing issues, a lack of basics such as drinking water during their long shifts and many other smaller but none the less important issues that are ignored due to not having proper trade union recognition.
“It is no wonder there is a massive turnover of staff at Stobart Aviation Services, as they feel undervalued and are paid dismally.
“The scandal that Stobart’s chief executive Warwick Brady could pocket a £30 million bonus leaves a very sour taste in the mouth for our low paid Stobart members working as easyJet check-in staff at Stansted Airport.
“We held talks with the bosses of Stobart Aviation Services Limited last week and they were frankly dismissive of our pay claim, with a senior manager even stating that staff are handsomely paid, yet were evasive and shifty on the £30 million bonus issue.
“Our members have to have background security checks and risk facing verbal and even physical abuse from stressed-out passengers, - but there always seem to be enough money sloshing around for big bonuses at the top.
“However, our members’ pay is languishing far behind others doing the same job at the airport, so then to be told that they are handsomely paid is quite frankly insulting.
“Our members were originally transferred from Menzies to Stobart’s, but ever since then, despite having a recognition agreement that should have carried over, Stobart bosses have blanked Unite when it comes to trade union recognition – this is unacceptable.
“Stobart’s business model at the airport is unstainable and the boardroom disputes with shareholders only add to these concerns which should raise concerns for anyone either considering investing or giving a contract to Stobart.
“Any strike would also hit easyJet’s profit margins in a competitive marketplace with passengers now seeking alternative travel arrangements to avoid potential travel chaos at Stansted.
“Unite is meeting Acas ahead of the strike, but it is our understanding that Stobart has declined, so far, to meet the conciliation service.
“We also believe it may also help discussions with Acas if a senior representative of easyJet were involved in any future meetings to resolve the dispute.
“However, there is a window of opportunity for the management to sit down with Unite and hold constructive talks to resolve this strike before the travel chaos kicks in on 25 July.
“Unite’s door is always open for such negotiations, but there does have to be a genuine attempt from Stobart’s to address our members’ concerns rather than simply stalling for time.”