Strike action to disrupt Easter flights

PAT ROQUE/AP

Easter holidaymakers travelling through Stansted airport face disruption after baggage handlers voted to strike.

Workers from the GMB union have voted to take action, claiming that new shift patterns cut their pay by £1,000. So what does it mean for anyone travelling over the Easter weekend?

The GMB union said airport contractor Swissport's moves to cut pay were aggressive and that the company would be to blame if holidays were disrupted.

Swissport provides handling services to Ryanair and Monarch among others, although passengers travelling on many airlines, including EasyJet, would be unaffected.

The GMB said strikes will be held on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday, threatening disruption to passengers flying on holiday for the holiday break.

GMB organiser Gary Pearce said: "GMB members have voted overwhelmingly for strike action and for action short of a strike. Unless there are urgent talks and a settlement this vote for action this will result in disruption over the Easter bank holiday weekend."

Why strike action?
Swissport has imposed a change to shifts patterns which GMB estimates will cost each of the 150 members up to £1,000 a year. The changes will also require that the baggage handlers work an additional 13 times a year, which brings additional commuting and childcare costs.

"GMB members consider that Swissport is attempting to make savings at their expense and they are not willing to agree to this," adds Pearce. "GMB has offered several alternative shift patterns and working arrangements but the company refuses to listen so far.

"The travelling public need to be aware that it has been this aggressive move by Swissport to cut our members pay at a time of high inflation that has led to this strike vote.

"If the strike goes ahead, Swissport is entirely to blame for the disruption."

Holiday havoc
Easter weekend is one of the busiest times of the year for Stanstead airport, where it normally has more than 200,000 people travelling in and out of the airport to European destinations.

Swissport predominately handles Ryanair, so if the strike goes ahead passengers may be able to avoid disruption by travelling with carry-on luggage only.

If you have paid an additional fee for check-in luggage with Ryanair however, it is important to check that your travel insurance policy covers your flight against strike action. The Consumer Council states that this will protect you from losing out, as airlines have no obligation to refund passengers for losses brought about by strike action.

German disruption
Airport strikes over pay in Germany led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights on this week. German airline Lufthansa cancelled 300 of its 1,850 flights on Tuesday – affecting around 18,500 passengers.

The airport strike is part of a series of strikes by public service workers in Germany who are members of the verdi union. The union has asked for a pay rise of 8% for its 1.3 million members but the German government has only offered 5% over two years plus a longer working week.

A separate 10-day strike in Berlin also involving the verdi union is continuing to cause travel chaos on the city's subway, buses and trams. Further travel misery is expected next week, with German train drivers also threatening to strike over a pay dispute.
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