Ryanair could face further disruptions from London Stansted Airport as baggage handlers calling for better pay has led to their union considering strike action if their requests are not met.
From bad to worse?
The London Stansted Airport baggage handlers are represented by Unite, a British and Irish trade union that was formed after the merger of the Transport and General Workers’ Union and Amicus. At the time of the merger, Amicus was the UK’s second-largest private-sector union and trade union.
Unite has said that workers employed by the baggage handler company Blue Handling have rejected an offer of a 4% increase in pay following a 10% pay cut made in 2020 in reaction to the pandemic.
A spokesperson from Blue Handling said that they were “very disappointed” to learn that the immediate 10.9% increase in pay (leading to a 4% increase in 2023) was rejected.
Unite has stressed that not increasing the pay of Blue Handling’s baggage handlers is incredibly insufficient, especially now that rising costs are hammering workers as inflation hits a staggering 11%.
Blue Handling and its workers are crucial to London Stansted running smoothly. Its employees handle 200 flights a day during the busy and gruelling summer season.
Unite has said that both Ryanair and Blue Handling’s parent company ABM are doing well financially in comparison, making it “unbelievable and irresponsible” that Blue Handling is “still refusing to pay decent wages.”
These claims by Unite have been proven recently, too. As reported by Travel Radar, mid-May saw Ryanair report positive financial gains in the past year by only making a loss of $393 million in the 2021/22 financial year.
ABM’s first-quarter results of 2022 reported positive revenue of £1.5 billion – an increase of 29.7% compared to the last year.
Progress needs to be made soon
Unite has therefore announced that it will prepare for an industrial action ballot unless substantial progress is made over the coming days.
Unite Regional Officer, Burcin Bayazit said that “spiralling food and energy prices” means that workers are “struggling to afford the basics.” He continued:
“Blue Handling’s client Ryanair has recovered well from the pandemic. Blue Handling must ensure that our members are repaid the money the workers lost during Covid. Our members have made it clear to us that they are ready to take part in an industrial action ballot. The company needs to get serious otherwise it could face significant disruption this summer.”
Sharon Graham, Unite General Secretary, echoed the sentiments expressed by colleague Bayazit:
“Given the chaos in the airline sector, it is unbelievable and irresponsible that Blue Handling is still refusing to pay decent wages. Unite’s members are ready for strike action. We now expect Blue Handling to step up and pay these workers fairly.”
A spokesperson for Ryanair commented on the ongoing pay dispute:
“We are aware of the ongoing negotiations between Unite and ABM who provide third-party handling services to Ryanair at Stansted. We understand these negotiations resulted in a signed agreement between ABM and Unite for significant pay rises for all staff which was subsequently rejected at ballot. We understand talks are ongoing and hope that they will be resolved with recourse to industrial action.”
As delays and disruptions at various airports across the UK have reached new frustrating heights this week, the very thought of strike action must strike fear within Ryanair. But in the wake of the cost of living rising to new heights in recent months, the simplest solution to this problem is almost certainly also the best.
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