Gatwick Airport has said passengers can expect all check-ins to run as normal in the run-up to Christmas despite threats of national strikes.
Britain’s largest union, Unite, is entering talks this week with airport ground handling company dnata in an attempt to avoid the threat of a two-day strike next week.
It is hoped conciliation service Acas will be able to help resolve a dispute over a ‘divisive’ pay offer.
The meeting, to be held on Friday December 19, comes as Unite announced ground and cargo handlers working for the company at Heathrow, Manchester and Gatwick had overwhelmingly backed strike action in a ballot by 83 per cent.
Anger has mounted at dnata over the imposition of a pay offer which sees supervisors get 4.5 per cent – double the 2.25 per cent of other staff.
The union warned that more than 460 members, based mainly at Heathrow, would go on strike for two days from Tuesday December 23 if the company continued to refuse to negotiate.
Unite members include check-in staff, aircraft push back drivers, loaders and HGV drivers. dnata is one of Heathrow’s biggest cargo handlers and one of the biggest ground handlers across Heathrow, Manchester and Gatwick airports.
However Gatwick Airport Ltd has confirmed many dnata staff there work in cargo loading and so passenger baggage handling services will be ‘unaffected’ by strikes.
dnata’s main customers are: Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, Iran Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airways, New Zealand Airways, Pakistan International Airlines, US Airways, Eva Air, Qantas Airways and Oman Airways.
Unite regional officer Kevin Hall said: “It is extremely disappointing that dnata has acted in such a high handed way and sought to split the workforce between the haves and the have nots.
“Strike action is very much a last resort and our members are mindful of the potential disruption it could cause. But they feel frustrated with an employer that has refused point blank to go to Acas and negotiate in a sensible manner.
“Instead hardworking staff have seen their supervisors enjoy a pay rise double the amount that was imposed on them.
“Our members are angry over the inequality being shown within dnata and we would urge management to join us at Acas to reach a fair pay deal.”
An Acas spokesman said: “We’re in touch with the parties and Acas conciliation is taking place on Friday December 19.”A Gatwick Airport Ltd spokesman said: “dnata operate only a small cargo handling operation at Gatwick no passengers will be affected if a strike were to take place.”