SPAA chief calls for ‘common sense’ to prevent airport strikes

The threat of summer strike action at Glasgow and Aberdeen airports will compound ongoing Brexit travel uncertainty, the head of Scottish travel agents has warned.

The Unite union warned on Friday it will hold an imminent ballot for members at Aberdeen international airport over a 2019 pay claim, as well as proposals to close the final salary pension scheme.

A similar dispute has taken place at Glasgow airport where Unite is also balloting its membership.

Airport bosses said the pay offer was “fair and reasonable”.

The Aberdeen ballot is due to open on April 5 and close on April 23 while Glasgow’s closes today.

Around 240 staff will be balloted in Aberdeen while almost 400 are currently taking part in the ballot in Glasgow.

If members vote to strike, staff in Aberdeen are expected to take action during the early May to late July period with an overtime ban due to take place during the same period.

Staff in Glasgow are expected to strike from mid-April to mid-October, again with an overtime ban.

Workers at both airports are taking issue with a pay offer which Unite claims “represents a real terms pay cut” in light of profits.

Staff at Aberdeen airport have been offered an increase of 1.8% after profits increased from £10.7 million to £19 million after tax between 2016-17.

For the same years, Glasgow airport’s profits increased from £50.7 million to £74.4 million after tax while workers have been offered a 1.5% pay rise.

Unite has also criticised a proposal to close the pension scheme by AGS Airports, which owns Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports.

The final salary (defined benefit) scheme provided a set level of pension at retirement – the amount depends on length of service and earnings.

All three airports are subject to the pension proposal.

Unite regional industrial officer Pat McIlvogue said: If there is widespread disruption over the Easter and summer months then the public should know now that the company is fully to blame for the situation.”

Responding to the dual strike threat, Scottish Passenger Agents Association president Ken McLeod said: “The possible threat of a strike action on three days during the summer period at Aberdeen airport, and further strike possibilities at Glasgow airport between May and October, isn’t good news for the travel trade, or the travelling public.

“With uncertainty over the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, customers are naturally hesitant to commit to holiday dates that many feel will be impacted by whatever outcome is finally agreed.

“This is despite assurances from not only the government, but also Abta and the EU stating that flights will not be impacted this summer, no matter what the ultimate outcome on Brexit might turn out to be.

“The added threat of strike action at two of Scotland’s main airports doesn’t help in any circumstances, because whatever the rights and wrongs leading to this possible strike action, it doesn’t do anyone any good, and will just drive those passengers to Edinburgh who will happily soak up the extra business.

“Many workers at both strike airports may lose out on pay, which will impact just as much as winning the argument with the airport authorities.

“Hopefully common sense will prevail, and some resolution can be found to allow customers to go ahead with their business and holiday plans, without another barrier to travel being put in their way, in what are already difficult times for all of us in this country.”

An AGS spokesperson told the BBC: “We are disappointed at the decision by the trade unions to hold an industrial ballot following the rejection of our proposed pay offer.

“We have made an offer that is entirely fair and reasonable against a backdrop of a considerable loss of routes in 2018-19 along with wider challenges within the industry.

“To suggest we have broken any agreements with Unite in regards to the company’s pension arrangements is simply incorrect.”

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