Potential strike action at ground handling firm Vanderlande Industries over a pay dispute and attempts at ‘union-busting’ could hit Heathrow freight and baggage services, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, warned today (Friday 17 January).

Unite represents around 80 Vanderlande workers who are responsible for loading freight on and off IAG planes, including those flying under the British Airways, Air Lingus and Iberia brands.

Vanderlande staff also operate the Terminal Three luggage belt as well as transporting passenger baggage to and from the terminal, which services One World Alliance, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates.

Strike action could leave thousands of passengers without their baggage and potentially impact air travel, as well as affecting IAG air freight services.

The union said the breakdown in industrial relations with Vanderlande began after members rejected a 2.5 per cent pay offer in August.

The dispute was on the verge of being resolved after talks mediated by the conciliation service Acas in October. After increasing the pay offer to three per cent, however, Vanderlande announced it would not accept that its recognition agreement with Unite applied to employees that had recently joined the firm.

Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King said: “Vanderlande’s actions have been completely unacceptable. Its attempts of isolating and controlling staff with underhand tactics have merely strengthened our members’ resolve.

“I am sure that IAG will not be happy to hear that its air freight services could face major disruption because Vanderlande’s attempt to strong arm our members has resulted in a shutdown of their operations.

“Nor will the airlines using Terminal Three be pleased at the prospect of passengers being unable to drop-off or collect their baggage and the potential delays this will cause to air travel.

“Unite has been left with no choice but to ballot for strike action. We urge Vanderlande to radically rethink its attempts at union-busting, re-engage Unite with a different approach and offer a pay deal our members can accept.”

The ballot for strike action opened today and closes on 14 February.

ENDS

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Ryan Fletcher on 07849 090215.

Email: ryan.fletcher@unitetheunion.org

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org 

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.