Edinburgh Airport Menzies workers hit back at 'insulting' offer in pay dispute
Union warns baggage handlers could strike after ‘insulting’ offer by Menzies
Union chiefs have accused Menzies Aviation of trying to intimidate staff into accepting a ‘disappointing’ pay offer.
The union has issued a warning that strike action could go ahead over Easter unless an improved deal is reached. More than 200 workers handle the baggage for airlines like British Airways, Lufthansa and Loganair. The lowest paid workers are on £10.31 an hour, less than a part-time bar job at Edinburgh Airport.
Unite bosses said they are ‘gutted at a well below par offer’ of 10.5 per cent increase and accused the company of heavy-handed tactics during pay negotiations, after workers told them they felt threatened by a letter from senior management. Staff received a letter from company management on Thursday urging them to accept the 10.5 per cent offer.
Kenny Nicol, general manager, said that the company would not be ‘intimidated by the threat of industrial action’. In the letter seen by the Evening News, Menzies accused the Union of taking an “extreme and damaging” position. He informed staff that management will be attending crew rooms in the next few days to give staff a chance to ‘raise questions directly.’
It's stated: "If you are a UNITE member it is important that you take part in the ballot and I would encourage you to vote in favour of ACCEPTING our offer.”
Carrie Binnie, regional officer for Unite said: "We’re really disappointed with the communication from the managers to staff which is intimidating. There’s no way we can recommend the pay offer on the table of 10.5 per cent. Workers in Edinburgh are some of the worst paid across the UK. It’s shocking that they could earn more working in the Airport bar. We’d be looking for an uplift to bring it into line with other airport jobs. Menzies staff get a raw deal if you look at their overall terms and conditions, which is part of the reason we can’t recommend staff accept this below par offer. They work unusual hours, around the clock which has an impact on their health and wellbeing.
"As part of the pay deal we are also seeking full-time hours to be reinstated after these were cut. This is a loss of around £1400 p.a. and a sacrifice they made to support the business through the pandemic. The company is begging staff to work triple time but they are not paid overtime rate until they clock up to 37.5 hours, however the new deal will address that but only after they’ve worked 35hrs which could be discriminatory for many people on part time hours because of caring responsibilities etc. We have also had to fight to get them a sick pay scheme, it was ludicrous, in 2023 there was no company sick pay within a profit making organisation of this size and scale. This offer is scandalous given the importance of their roles to the whole sector running smoothly, safely and on time.”
Luton staff offered increase of 28%
It comes after Luton staff accepted an increase worth more than 28 per cent for baggage handlers and check-in staff employed by Menzies at Luton Airport. Services at Heathrow ground to a halt when handling staff held a 72-hour strike in June last year, and had been due to strike again in December but a pay deal was agreed.
Unite said it’s likely workers will reject the offer and fight for a better deal including reinstated contract hours, following cuts which have seen overtime not paid. The union would then hold a full ballot over strike action.
"It lacks care and any sort of understanding”
One worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “We are insulted and upset by this offer and the response from senior management. We are paid only £10.31 per hour for a job that has high responsibility as we are liable for any mistakes made such as passenger boarding errors, baggage mishaps, and border breaches - all of which can result in contract termination.
“We receive no real benefits from our job, with no flight deals, and no lounge access despite working on behalf of highly profitable airlines such as British Airways, Lufthansa, and United. Head office staff have access to subsidised food and drink, whereas at the airport we have to pay full price or bring in our own food as nothing is provided by Menzies for their frontline staff. If a better offer isn't tabled, I would strongly support strike action - which I know most of my colleagues do too. The letter was laughable and made me feel as though senior management put profits above their people. It lacks care and any sort of understanding for the work that we actually do for Menzies and their airline customers. The morale of the team is quite low following this pay offer.
“Menzies staff at Luton Airport were offered 28 per cent, which they accepted, and if their starting rate is the same at £10.31 it is quite insulting that we are only offered 10.5 per cent. Edinburgh is one of the most expensive places to live and work in the UK and the cost of living crisis and inflation is just as much of an issue in Edinburgh as it is in Luton, Manchester, Cardiff, and every other town and city in the UK.
Phil Lloyd, senior vice president of Menzies Aviation UK & Ireland, said: “As part of our regular pay reviews at our locations in the UK, we work with unions to agree pay awards for our employees. We are currently in discussions with our Edinburgh Airport employees and the union to agree a pay increase that takes into consideration the current economic climate, as well as being on par with the deal reached with Unite by fellow ground handling companies at the airport. We look forward to taking forward the discussions and reaching an agreement with our employees and the union.”