Union talks offer hope of avoiding Christmas airport strikes

A strike by baggage handlers over the festive season could cause chaos at UK airports. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

A strike by baggage handlers over the festive season could cause chaos at UK airports. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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Talks aimed at averting strikes by baggage handlers and other staff at 18 airports will be held at Acas this week.

Officials from the Unite union and aviation services company Swissport will meet at the conciliation service on Tuesday.

More than 1,500 check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew are due to strike for 48 hours just before Christmas in a long-running pay dispute.

Members of Unite employed by Swissport will walk out on 23 and 24 December at Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Doncaster, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, Leeds/Bradford, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton and Stansted.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “We are pleased that the company will sit down with us in an effort to resolve this dispute. We are confident that our members’ case is extremely strong, and that fairness will prevail.”

No talks have yet been arranged to try to head off a strike by British Airways cabin crew on Christmas Day and Boxing Day in a row over pay.

The airline said it was “appalled” at the decision by the Unite union and pledged to ensure its customers reach their destinations.

The row involves around 4,500 so-called mixed fleet cabin crew who have joined BA since 2010.

Unite say they are on lower pay than other staff.

BA, which employs around 16,000 cabin crew, said: “We are appalled that Unite proposes to disrupt customers’ travel plans on such special days when so many families are trying to gather together or set off on well-deserved holidays. This calculated and heartless action is completely unnecessary and we are determined that it will fail.

“We will plan to ensure all our customers travel to their destinations so that their Christmas arrangements are not ruined.

“Meanwhile, we have also approached the conciliation service Acas to seek their assistance in reaching an outcome that would avoid any possibility of disruption.”

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