Prestwick flights disruption threat after workers announce four weeks of action

Flights at Prestwick Airport face disruption after the union Unite announced staff would walk out on four days a week for a month from August 5 in a pay dispute.

The union said the strikes were aimed at hitting cargo and military flights, but services by Ryanair – the South Ayrshire airport’s only passenger operator – could also be affected.

Unite industrial officer Siobhan McCready said: "Our strike action will specifically target days which are designed to lessen the impact on passenger travel and instead will initially hit freight and military cargo, which is the airport's biggest traffic."

She said industrial action would take place every Friday, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday for four weeks after members voted by 78 per cent for stoppages over a “real terms pay cut and poverty pay”.

Ryanair is Prestwick's sole passenger airline

More than 80 workers are involved, including security staff, firefighters, airfield operators, ground crew, ground handlers, cargo, customer services and cleaners.

Unite said the dispute centred on the Scottish Government-owned airport’s refusal to pay shift allowances or pay the real living wage of £9.90 an hour to new staff.

It has demanded a “significant” pay increase and said the latest offer from the airport was between 4 and 6.5 per cent.

The union said the airport’s failure to pay a real living wage undermined ministers’ “much-trumpeted fair work agenda”.

Unite said talks with the airport at the conciliation service Acas would resume on Thursday afternoon “in a last-ditch attempt to reach a deal that meets the aspirations of the workers before strike action occurs”.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Prestwick Airport management have one last chance before their rock-bottom pay offer results in strike action.

"The last offer was not only well below inflation, but it also proposes to pay new starters a rate lower than the real living wage.”

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However, Ms McCready said she was not hopeful of progress at Acas because of the airport’s “arrogant attitude towards the workforce while they shamelessly protect the pay packets of directors”.

She said: “Unite’s members have overwhelmingly backed strike action because they are angry and frustrated.”

A spokesperson for the airport said: “We are extremely disappointed that Unite has proposed such an extreme strike action plan - especially on the basis of only having support of just 18 per cent of our workforce.

“Its confrontational approach jeopardises the fragile recovery of the airport following the pandemic and is denying the majority of our workforce a pay deal which will see 70 per cent of our 300 employees receiving a pay increase of 6.5 per cent or above, improvements to allowances, increased annual leave entitlement, enhanced sick pay provisions, and up to 2 per cent more employer pension contributions.

“The majority of our workforce have already backed our pay offer, which will also see all qualified staff earn above the real living wage and are keen to see it implemented as soon as possible.

“Unlike most other airports, we directly appoint our staff, making us one of the biggest employers in Ayrshire.

“We urge Unite to reconsider their plans, and work with us to realise our ambitions, which will have a positive impact on the local economy at a critical time for the region.”

The airport, which includes Glasgow in its title despite being 30 miles from the city, was taken into public ownership in November 2013 after it was bought by the Scottish Government for £1 to avert closure and the loss of hundreds of jobs.

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