Passengers flying from London Heathrow airport on some airlines between 16 and 18 December have been warned to to expect “disruption, delays and potentially cancellations” after another strike by Menzies ground handlers was called by the Unite union.
The 72-hour stoppage by 350 workers is due to begin at 4am on Friday 16 December, as part of a pay dispute. The union says a flat-rate increase offered by Menzies “amounts to a real terms pay cut”.
Unite says 10 airlines spread across Heathrow Terminals 2, 3 and 4 will be “particularly affected”: Aer Lingus, Air Canada, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Egyptair, Finnair, Lufthansa, Qantas, Swiss and TAP Portugal.
The union’s regional officer Kevin Hall said: “Heathrow passengers are facing disruption, delays and potentially cancellations in the lead up to Christmas but this dispute is entirely of Menzies’ own making.
“The company has offered a fair pay rise to one group of workers but not to its ground handlers.
“Menzies needs to stop prevaricating and making excuses. Instead, return to negotiations and make our workers a pay offer which meets their expectations.”
A similar strike took place in November. The union says it “caused considerable disruption across Heathrow,” though airport insiders say there was no great impact beyond a few delayed departures.
The next stoppage is timed to coincide with what could be the busiest weekend of the winter, a week ahead of Christmas.
Miguel Gomez Sjunnesson, executive vice-president for Europe for Menzies Aviation said:“We are well prepared for further industrial action and are working closely with key partners to put in place robust contingency plans.
“The previous strike, which involved about 250 of our 1,500 ground handling workforce at Heathrow, had minimal impact on our operations with no flight cancellations attributable to Menzies and 97% of flights departing on time.
“We remain committed to seeking a resolution on the pay talks in our ground handling operations so our employees can receive their increase now, and hope to be able to reach an agreement which is workable for both the business and our employees during our meeting with unions on Tuesday.”
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We are aware of industrial action proposed by Menzies colleagues from 16 to 18 December.
“We encourage airport partners who would be affected to continue with their contingency planning and we will support them to minimise the impact on passengers, should the strike go ahead.”
Most passengers are with airlines that have other ground-handling arrangements and should not experience problems.
The Independent has asked Menzies for a response.