Belfast airports chaos looms as cargo crews plan 48-hour stoppage
Belfast's airports could be hit after more than 1,500 check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew at airports across the UK are set to strike for 48 hours just before Christmas in a long-running pay dispute.
Members of Unite employed by Swissport will walk out on December 23 and 24 at Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Doncaster, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, Leeds/Bradford, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton and Stansted.
Swissport operates at both Belfast City and Belfast International Airports.
Unite national officer Oliver Richardson said: "We appreciate that this is a very busy time of year at the UK's airports and that's why we are calling for the company to engage in constructive talks under the auspices of Acas to resolve this dispute.
"Our members are only taking this industrial action as a last resort in a bid to reach a fair settlement - our members have not had a pay rise since 2014."
The news came an hour after an announcement that pilots at Virgin Atlantic had voted for industrial action short of a strike in a dispute over union recognition. Members of the PPU union will "work to contract" from December 23.
Unite members voted by 62.5% to reject a 4.65% three-year pay deal for 2015-2017, which the union said barely kept pace with inflation.
The staff were angry that detrimental changes to terms and conditions have been linked to the pay deal.
The changes include freezing overtime payments and restructuring pay.
Neither Belfast City nor Belfast International Airport responded to a request for comment last night.
The baggage handlers' strike news comes just days after a decision by British Airways cabin crew to stage walkouts in a row over pay.
The airline has several direct flights from George Best Belfast City Airport to Heathrow every day.
The dispute involves cabin crew who have joined the airline since 2010, with Unite saying they earn less than other staff.
Unite said around 2,500 workers in BA's so-called Mixed Fleet, based at Heathrow, are involved in the dispute.
The union claimed earnings were advertised between £21,000 and £25,000, but in reality started at just over £12,000 plus £3-an-hour flying pay.
Unite regional officer Matt Smith said: "Our members have overwhelmingly voted for strike action because British Airways' pay rates are indefensible and the crew are at breaking point.
"Mixed Fleet crew earn just over the minimum wage and below the national average.
"British Airways bosses need to wake up to the anger and the injustice here."