Baggage handlers at Stansted will strike from 5:30am on Wednesday in the first of seven days of action that threaten to see them out over the entire Jubilee bank holiday.
The 150 baggage handlers employed by Swissport work chiefly on Ryanair flights but also handle baggage for passengers of Thomas Cook, Thomson and other carriers. EasyJet flights from Stansted are unaffected.
The GMB union which represents the handlers informed ground-handler Swissport of the strike last week. It said talks to resolve the dispute over rosters broke down on Friday.
The two sides have been negotiating since Easter after the union called off a planned strike.
The GMB argues changes to working patterns have cost the handlers up to £1,000 each and disrupted their domestic arrangements. It has also objected to changes being imposed.
Swissport said the roster changes “mean we will avoid job losses”.
The strike on Wednesday is due to last 24 hours. A 48-hour strike is planned from 5.30am on Saturday (May 26) and a four-day strike from 5.30am on Saturday June 2 until Wednesday June 6.
Ryanair dismissed the strike plans as “blackmail” and accused the union of “holding passengers to ransom”. However, Ryanair insisted it would be unaffected, saying it would allow carry-on bags only for the duration of the action.
GMB organiser Gary Pearce said: “Swissport made and then withdrew a number of proposals which would have settled the dispute. It seems we have reached the end of the line.”
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “The unions do this every bank holiday. Flights will continue, we just won’t check in bags.”
The original threat to strike over Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday followed an “overwhelming” vote in favour of industrial action, but was called off when Swissport agreed to talks.
The union has dismissed claims that Swissport is losing money at Stansted following a loss of work with Ryanair.
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