Just as holidaymakers hoping to fly on holiday from London Gatwick airport are adjusting to easyJet flights, a leading union has warned of “serious delays, disruptions and cancellations” ahead of two extended strike weekend in central Sussex.
Unite members working for four ground handling companies will be out for two key weekends in the summer rush for the UK’s second-busiest airport. The union said employees – who check-in, handle luggage and check-in planes – are paid a “small amount”.
The ground handling companies involved are ASC, Menzies Aviation, GGS and DHL Services Ltd.
The first strike took place from Friday, July 28 to Tuesday, August 1, and repeat a week later: Friday, August 4 until Tuesday, August 8.
A Gatwick spokesperson said that while the airport does not employ staff directly, it will work with the ground department to ensure “as many flights operate on schedule as possible”.
But with memories of the tumultuous summer of 2022, when ground handling shortcomings caused massive disruption across UK airports, it’s understandable for passengers to worry.
These are the key questions and answers.
Who exactly will strike?
Ground handling personnel work for four ground handling companies at Gatwick Airport. They are:
- ASC, handle Tui
- DHL Services Ltd, handling easyJet
- GGS, a wholly owned subsidiary of British Airways, handles BA and its sister Spanish airline, Vueling
- Menzies Aviation, handling Wizz Air
Why are they on strike?
The union says most employees are paid less than £12 an hour (the current national minimum wage for an adult is £10.42). Employees, Unite said, have “highly demanding and safety-critical roles”. It has spoken to four companies since January “but all of them have failed to deliver offers that meet workers’ expectations”.
The union’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said she was “committed to eradicating the scourge of low wages at the airport”.
Unite regional officer Dominic Rothwell said: “This dispute is entirely self-created by the companies. They have had every opportunity to offer fair pay to our members but have chosen not to do so.”
What is the possible impact?
The walk is planned for the days when Gatwick is at his most stressed. It is the busiest single-runway airport in the world and any disruption can quickly escalate.
During the strike, Gatwick Airport is expected to see an average of 441 departures daily, with easyJet being the largest airline, followed by British Airways, Tui, Vueling and Ryanair.
Aviation relies on teams of experienced professionals working together to coordinate passenger processes, baggage handling and dispatch. If the strikes continue and are well supported, it is difficult to see how affected airlines will be able to operate their full schedules – even with staff brought in from outside. enter.
An airport spokesman said: “We are aware of the recent voting results. London Gatwick will assist affected airlines, who have contracts with third-party check-in and ground handling companies, with their contingency plans to ensure that as many flights as possible. The better it works on a schedule.”
Unite’s Mr Rothwell said: “Strike action will inevitably cause significant delays, disruptions and cancellations in Gatwick operations.”
Will all dates be equally affected?
Are not. The exact timing of each strike varies depending on the shift pattern of each company, but all strikes will begin in the early morning hours of July 28 and August 4 and end on the early morning hours of August 1 and 8. As a result, operations on Tuesday, August 1 and August 8 are unlikely to be significantly impacted – unless the disruption continues from the four-day break. previous work.
Can it be called off?
Well, there is every chance that it will happen; many strikes were announced, followed by serious negotiations with employers, and then suspended. However, by striking for a minimum of 14 days as required by labor law, the union had little time to negotiate.
What if my flight is delayed or canceled?
The normal European air passenger rights rules apply. The airline must pay for meals (and, if necessary, accommodation) during the delay. If a flight is cancelled, it must get you to your destination as close to your original flight time as possible – including purchasing a ticket from a rival airline for you if needed.
Didn’t we have this problem last year with ground handlers?
No significant industry action has been taken, but as the travel industry emerges from restrictions imposed during the pandemic, ground handling companies face severe staff shortages – in some last-minute flight cancellations.
British Airways, easyJet and Tui have canceled a large number of departures.
Are there any ground handling companies that are not on strike in Gatwick?
Yes, for example Dnata, which handles Emirates, jetBlue and Turkish Airlines; and Red Processing, Norwegian, Atlantic Nordic and TAP Portuguese.
Any more trouble coming in Gatwick?
“In addition to the four companies that have already secured industrial action rights, Unite is also voting for its members at DHL Gatwick Direct, Red Handling and Wilson James,” Unite said.
“All three ballots will end on Monday, July 31, if workers vote for industrial action, strikes at these companies could begin in the middle of next month.”