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Luton passengers face summer strike chaos

Luton airport terminal at dusk

Passengers using Luton airport could face ‘significant’ disruption this summer, as the Unite union announced a series of strike ballots over pay and zero-hours contracts.

The ballots for union members directly employed by the airport include staff in several roles, including firefighters and security guards. Unite says the ballot is in response to what it calls a “paltry pay offer” despite record passenger numbers.

Luton has offered its staff a 2.15 per cent pay increase, but Unite says this isn’t enough when the Retail Price Index is at 3.3 per cent. Workers voted to reject the deal and have now called to vote on industrial action.

Unite points to Luton’s latest financial statements, which show that the airport’s directors’ pay has increased by as much as 59 per cent.

Staff employed by Menzies Aviation, which undertakes baggage handling at the airport, are disputing the company’s “failure” to revise pay rates due to inflation levels. Unite also claims the firm is in breach of its recognition agreement, offers poor working conditions and does not communicate with employees.

Meanwhile, union members employed by Clece Care Service, which provides assistance for passengers with reduced mobility at the airport, will be balloted in a dispute concerning the use of zero-hours contracts, failure to pay at least the real living wage and “bullying” by the station manager.

Finally, Unite will ballot employees of Luton’s branches of International Currency Exchange over the company’s failure to pay a premium for those working before 0600.

Each of these ballots will open next week and will close on 11 May. Unite says if members vote in favour of industrial action, strikes could begin by the end of May.

Ian Maidlow, regional co-ordinating officer for Unite, commented: “Luton airport workers regardless of their employer deserve a decent rate of pay for their work and to be treated fairly by management. These ballots demonstrate that members will no longer accept paltry pay packets and unfair treatment while their bosses have enriched themselves with sky-high pay increases.

“Turnover at Luton airport is up, company profits are up and passenger numbers are up, but the workers on the front line are being given a pay cut. London Luton airport now faces the prospect of a total shutdown if workers vote for strike action. It’s time for management to get around the negotiating table and resolve this dispute.”

A spokesperson for Luton airport said: “Given we have made a revised pay offer in line with the current rate of inflation at 2.5 per cent and negotiations are ongoing, it is disappointing to see Unite balloting for industrial action. Our staff receive a remuneration package in line with the rest of the market, including a competitive salary, private health insurance and a generous pension scheme. In addition, our staff receive a share of profits, which this year is likely to be in the region of £5,000 for every qualifying employee.”

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