WFS cargo handlers to hold Heathrow strike vote

By Damian Brett

Source: Heathrow Airports Limited

Unite the union will hold a strike ballot for its members employed by Worldwide Flight Services (WFS) over a pay dispute.

The union alleged that WFS’ cargo workers were facing a pay freeze for the pay year starting January 2021 while competitors based at the airport were offering pay increases.

The ballot will start on April 13 and runs until April 27, with 200 cargo handlers and truckers able to vote.

“Unite is calling on WFS to match the pay awards of competitors, such as dnata and Menzies, who had given pay rises for 2021 ranging from seven to 10% and/or £3,000 one-off payments in recognition of the galloping cost of living crisis engulfing UK households,” the union said.

In response, WFS said: “We are continuing to communicate directly with our staff on the two-year pay offer we have made and remain confident of reaching a positive outcome.”

A strike ballot is often utilised as part of the negotiation process and does not necessarily mean that a strike will take place.

Unite said that customers of WFS that could be affected by any strike action include Air China, American Airlines, Etihad, Singapore and Thai.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This WFS pay freeze is a pay cut at a time of galloping inflation.  It’s completely unacceptable. The penny has to drop with WFS that low pay has seen aviation workers vote with their feet and chaos at airports.

“With bills going through the roof, WFS needs to do as competitors are doing, recognise that workers’ pay must keep pace and return to the negotiating table with a realistic offer.”

The tensions come as recruitment is emerging as one of the big challenges for the air cargo industry as the sector continues to recover from Covid and faces an increasingly competitive employment market.

Meanwhile, aviation companies that cater for the passenger market have come under huge financial pressure over the last couple of years as a result of Covid’s impact on the industry.

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