Security guards at Luton airport have begun a 49-day strike in a row over proposed changes to shift patterns.

Members of the Unite union had earlier warned of a 12-day walk-out, but will now strike until 2059 on 23 July after they said talks with the airport failed.

According to Unite, Luton is imposing a new shift pattern affecting around 120 security guards that it claims will see them have to work an extra 15 days a year with only nine full weekends free per year. The union also says the changes give workers less rest time between shifts and will force them to pay more in childcare and travel costs.

Unite says 95 per cent of those who participated in the strike ballot voted for industrial action.

Regional officer Jeff Hodge commented: “Security guards are determined to fight back against Luton airport’s heavy-handed and antisocial shift changes. Management are trying to force staff to work for longer, with shorter breaks, while piling extra costs on the workforce. The airport management have even callously cut the amount of free weekends workers get to spend with their friends and family.

“The airport needs to take responsibility for the staff shortages by doing what’s needed to recruit new staff rather than heaping all the burden on its workforce. The airport now faces disruption through most of June and July. This latest strike represents a significant failure on the part of management at Luton airport. Workers would not be taking this action unless they had genuine and serious grievances. We hope the airport listens and works with Unite to resolve this dispute.”

The union is due to have a meeting with the airport with Acas on 12 June to attempt to find a resolution.

Luton airport says the strike only includes “a small number” of staff and that it does not expect any major disruption to passengers as a result.

A statement on its website says: “We remain open to discussions with the union with a view to bring an end to the dispute.”

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