Workers at Gatwick and Heathrow airports are threatening strike action in disputes over pay, according to the Unite union.

Following pay negotiations that began last autumn, the union said Gatwick Airport Limited proposed a three-year deal that would have seen workers receive a pay increase of 2 per cent plus £250 for the first two years. The third year would have seen a pay rise in line with the consumer price index inflation rate plus £250.

In addition, Unite claimed the offer is conditional on the introduction of a new starter rate, which would result in new employees being paid “up to £7,000 per annum less than staff undertaking the same role”.

Of more than 2,000 Unite members employed by Gatwick as security staff, firefighters, terminal operatives, surface transport workers and engineers, the union said 98 per cent voted to reject the offer on a turnout of nearly 80 per cent.

Unite said it is now seeking an “urgent” meeting with the airport to negotiate an improved offer or else it will ballot its members on strike action.

If the dispute results in industrial action, the union said the walk-out would likely begin in the spring “and would result in widespread disruption at the airport”.

The threat comes after Gatwick, which is now majority-owned by Vinci Airports, reported profit after tax of £137 million for the six months to 30 September 2019.

Unite regional officer Jamie Major said: “It is now incumbent on Gatwick airport to come back with a dramatically improved pay offer which meets the workers’ pay claim. The airport is fantastically profitable as a result of the hard work of our members and they believe they should be properly rewarded for their hard work and loyalty.

“To even be suggesting the introduction of new starter rates far below that workers already receive demonstrates that the airport’s management is putting profits before people. Unite’s members have no desire to cause disruption to the travelling public but they will not allow their pay to be cut in real terms.”

A Gatwick spokesperson said: “We are keen to see an agreement reached and for the focus to remain on delivering an excellent experience for our passengers this summer.”

Meanwhile, baggage handlers at Heathrow employed by Global Baggage Solutions are planning two four-day strikes from Sunday, 2 February to Wednesday, 5 February and again from Friday, 22 February to Tuesday, 25 February.

Unite claimed the action is a result of the contractor “refusing to make a pay offer for 2019 and only offering an increase of 32 pence an hour for 2020” – a deal that was “unanimously rejected” by its members.

Regional officer Clare Keogh commented: “Heathrow passengers need to be aware that is their baggage is mislaid, it could disappear forever while our members are on strike. Our members will no longer accept low pay and this dispute is completely a result of the refusal by Global Baggage Solutions to negotiate.

“Our members are taking strike action as a last resort as life is becoming a daily struggle to survive on poverty pay rates. There is still time for strike action to be avoided if Global Baggage Solutions is prepared to make a realistic pay offer and return to the negotiating table.”

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