Hundreds of baggage handlers at Gatwick airport will stage a 48-hour strike this weekend in a long-running row over working practices and the suspension of a union official, it was announced today.
Members of the Transport and General Workers Union employed by ground services firm Servisair will walk out on Saturday and Sunday, the seventh strike in recent weeks.
On previous strike days Servisair, along with travel firms, has drafted in other staff to minimise disruption.
A union spokesman said: “Support for industrial action remains solid. Our dispute is not with the travelling public, but very definitely with Servisair.
“Even at this late stage we would hope that Servisair would come back to the negotiating table and deal with the issues of changed working practices, and the suspension of our senior steward, in a constructive manner.”
Servisair said it wanted to reassure passengers that it will again be using its “well-proven” contingency plans to ensure minimal disruption to flights this weekend, the start of the school half-term.
Managing director Andrew Saunders said: “This cynical action by the T&G is clearly planned to disrupt family holidays.
“However, we and our airport partners assure the public that we will endeavour to minimise disruption.
“During the previous stoppages, 96% of flights departed on time and more than 30% departed early.
“Despite the inconsistent reasons being offered by the T&G to substantiate these stoppages, this dispute is about one issue only: that of one T&G member of our 1,200-strong workforce at Gatwick who is not willing to abide by the company’s disciplinary process, a process that has been agreed by all parties including the T&G.
“We have always been available for talks. However, the T&G’s unrealistic pre-conditions continue to prevent any progress.”
Meanwhile, workers on parts of London Underground are to be balloted on industrial action in separate disputes over working conditions and the demotion of a driver.
The drivers’ union Aslef is to hold four ballots covering workers on the District, Jubilee, Piccadilly and East London lines, together used by 1.7 million passengers.
One union official said industrial relations on the Tube had broken down.