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Stansted Airport Baggage Handlers Strike Action

Stansted Airport passengers face the threat of disruption at Stansted airport over the jubilee weekend after baggage handlers announced a new round of seven days of strikes.

GMB union members employed by Swissport, an airport services business, are poised to walk out from 5.30am on 2 June until 5.30am on 6 June, as well as holding a 24-hour strike from 5.30am on 23 May, and a 48-hour walkout from 5.30am on 26 May.

GMB said the walkouts, in a dispute over rota changes, would cause disruption. Ryanair said the dispute would have “no effect” on flights although passengers will not be able to check in bags. Ryanair is Stansted’s biggest carrier and Swissport also handles bags for Thomas Cook, Thomson, AtlasJet and BelleAir. The next largest, easyJet, uses a different baggage handling company that is not involved in the row.

Gary Pearce, a GMB organiser, said: “You are looking at 150 people who will not be at work on those days. That has got to slow things down. Ryanair could take up the option of not putting bags on flights but that will cause disruption as well.”

Swissport said the airport would “open as normal” and that passengers should expect “no disruption to their services”. The company’s Stansted boss, Richard Prince, said the alternative to the rota changes – which involve converting a shift pattern of four consecutive days into five consecutive days – is job cuts. “The proposed changes to working patterns mean we will avoid job losses; we are asking our employees now to work a five-day week rather than a four-day week. We are not cutting people’s pay. We are not increasing the amount of hours they work. We are keeping people in jobs.”

Pearce said the changes would disrupt employees’ domestic arrangements, adding that Swissport had withdrawn a proposal that would have retained the ‘four days on, two days off’ rota. “The membership are getting to the stage where there is no trust in what management are saying.”

Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said the strikes would have no effect. “The unions do this every bank holiday. They always seem to find a way of climbing back. It really doesn’t matter. Flights will continue, we just won’t check in bags.” He said that since his airline had imposed swingeing charges on checked baggage, only 25% of passengers used the handlers’ service anyway.

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