British union Unite has called an eight-day strike at London Gatwick airport as employees demand better salaries. The union claims that they are paid an average of 12 pounds per hour (14€). More than 900 individuals are expected to participate in the strike, according to British media. Workers from ASC, Menzies Aviation, GGS and DHL Services, are subcontracted by the airlines for activities such as ground handling, baggage, ramp agents and check-in. “Given the scale of the strike, delays, cancellations and disruptions are inevitable,” Unite’s head office said in a statement.
The industrial action is expected to take place from Friday, July 28 to Tuesday, August 1 and from Friday, August 4 to Tuesday, August 8. In total, there will be eight days distributed in two consecutive weekends (considered in a broad sense) on crucial dates for the airline industry. The airlines most affected are expected to be “British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, TUI, Westjet and Wizz Air,” according to the union.
Given the scale of the strike, delays, cancellations and disruptions are inevitable.Unite
Meanwhile, a Gatwick spokesperson said, “We are aware of the recent ballot result. London Gatwick will support the airlines affected, who hold the contracts with the third-party ground handling and check-in companies, with their contingency plans to ensure that as many flights as possible operate as scheduled.”
Gatwick operates with one runway thus all of them will face schedule changes that may result in cost overruns and lower revenues. This is due to the knock-on effect that airline strikes have, not only on the airport itself, but also on the operations of the airlines themselves, because they work in a network.
“Our ground handling agent at Gatwick, GGS, is surprised by Unite’s announcement given the constructive conversations they’ve had this week,” British Airways said in a statement. “It is continuing to work with the union to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency so as not to disrupt our customers’ travel plans.”
There could be further strikes at a later date, as Unite has consulted employees at DHL Gatwick Direct, Red Handling and Wilson James for similar action. If the ballots, which close on July 31, are favorable, the strikes would take place in mid-August.
The problems have been mounting for Gatwick airport, where easyJet has its main base. With some 90 aircraft, the company already announced this week the cancellation of 1,700 flights between July and September precisely in anticipation of the problems that could arise.
“We are extremely disappointed to hear of the proposed industrial action by Unite ground handlers at London Gatwick Airport on the weekends of Friday July 28 and Friday August 4,” a spokesman for easyJet said. “More talks between our ground handler DHL and Unite are taking place early next week to try and resolve the issue and we urge them to reach an agreement as soon as possible.”
Gatwick has the worst punctuality record in Europe among the continent’s 110 major airports. According to Eurocontrol, only 35.8% of take-offs departed less than fifteen minutes late during the past week, while only 37.5% of landings were on time. The problems stem from strikes by air traffic controllers in France and flow restrictions imposed by Nats, the UK air traffic controller.