On Tuesday 27 November 2018 over 100 Unite the Union reps from cargo handling, cabin crew, catering, cleaning, engineering, security, baggage handling and the fire service along with some Unite officers and organisers packed into a committee room in the House of Commons for the launch of a campaign across four major airports.
Opening the meeting Wayne King London & Eastern Lead Officer for aviation explained that 30,000 Unite members worked in Stansted, Luton, London City and Heathrow Airports, 13,000 of them women, of whom 6,000 are BAME. The union has 700 reps across these airports that should be acting together to stop the bosses race to the bottom and turn round the situation were jobs at these airports are too often on the minimum wage and conditions are worsening.
A rep for firm DHL explained that many workers were on £7.83 per hour struggling to put food on the table while their employer was getting richer every day off their work.
A rep from Luton Airport reported that Unite members working for CCS, the company who run the wheel chair service, were now out on a week-long strike, their third strike for a pay rise. He told the meeting that despite Luton’s Bough Council owning the airport, the Labour run council had failed to force the airport management to make CCS pay the real living wage.
Cabin crew reps described how wages and conditions were being driven down and security reps spoke about the effect of ever more antisocial shift system in a job that used to be seen as family friendly.
A new member from baggage handling at London City Airport where a campaign for a pay rise and recognition is in full swing spoke about the effect of having to work in the hot and polluted atmosphere created by jet engines. This followed a presentation on air quality on airports.
It was agreed that the campaign should be built through meetings of reps for each key sub sector across all four airports that will set out the aims. Some of these have already happened including the caterers and cleaners who voted to fight for the Real Living Wage as an airport minimum wage.
John McDonnell MP closed the meeting in a speech were he promised to support the demands of the campaign, committed a Labour Government to repeal the anti-union laws, increase the living wage to £10 an hour and reform laws on health and safety and TUPE. Importantly he also said that it is the role of every Labour MP to be on the picket lines, which will surely come with this campaign.