Heathrow faces pre-Christmas baggage handlers strike

Pre-Christmas travellers using Heathrow airport later this month face disruption after baggage handlers voted to strike from 16 December.

The 72-hour strike action will affect flights operated by 10 major airlines from Heathrow Terminals 2, 3 and 4.

The dispute centres around a pay offer made to cargo workers but which has not been extended to baggage handlers.

The Unite union said ground-handling workers at Menzies Aviation have not received a “fair” pay offer.

“Menzies has made a fair pay offer to one group of its workers but isn’t prepared to make a similar offer to its ground handlers,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

Miguel Gomez Sjunnesson, executive vice president Europe at Menzies Aviation said: “We are well prepared for further industrial action and are working closely with key partners to put in place robust contingency plans.

“We remain committed to seeking a resolution on the pay talks in our ground handling operations so our employees can receive their increase now, and hope to be able to reach an agreement which is workable for both the business and our employees during our meeting with unions on Tuesday.”

Airlines that are likely to be affected by the three-day strike are Air Canada, American Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Air Portugal, Austrian Airlines, Qantas, Egypt Air, Aer Lingus and Finnair.

The dispute involves 350 workers employed by Menzies who were offered a lower pay deal than cargo workers employed by the company.

Cargo workers were offered a 9.5% pay increase backdated to May 2022 and a further 1% from January 2023, the union said.

“The Menzies ground handlers have been offered a flat rate increase which for all the workforce amounts to a real terms pay cut while the real inflation rate (RPI) currently stands at 14.2%,” the union added.

The action follows a similar dispute in November when a three-day strike hit passengers at the airport.

The strike would have been more widespread with twice as many ground-handling staff planning to walk out last month until rival transport handling company Dnata agreed an improved pay offer for its 350 workers at Heathrow.

Menzies Aviation said the strike in November involved about 250 of the company’s 1,500 ground handling workforce at Heathrow and had minimal impact on operations.

A Heathrow spokesperson said the airport was “aware of industrial action proposed by Menzies colleagues”. It said it “encouraged airport partners who would be affected to continue with their contingency planning and we will support them to minimise the impact on passengers, should the strike go ahead.”(BBC)