Edinburgh Airport: Passengers could face summer of travel chaos as workers balloted on strike action

Unite union says Edinburgh Airport workers offered less than those at Gatwick
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Passengers using Edinburgh Airport could face a “summer of travel chaos”, a union warned as it announced around 275 airport workers were to be balloted over strike action in a dispute over pay.

The Unite union said its members at Edinburgh Airport had rejected a pay offer which was inferior to the one accepted by staff at Gatwick Airport of a 12 per cent increase plus a £1500 one-off cash payment. Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), which controls Edinburgh Airport, have a minority stake in Gatwick through its manager Global Infrastructure Management.

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Unite says over the last seven years £691.9 million has flowed out of Edinburgh Airport in payments of £304.2m made to GIP and £387.7m to its shareholders, while workers real take-home pay is estimated to have dropped by around 9.8 per cent over the same period. The union adds that with latest inflation figures showing RPI at 13.5 per cent, the cost of living crisis remains historically high.

Unite members at Edinburgh Airport are being balloted on strike action which the union says could lead to travel chaos this summer.Unite members at Edinburgh Airport are being balloted on strike action which the union says could lead to travel chaos this summer.
Unite members at Edinburgh Airport are being balloted on strike action which the union says could lead to travel chaos this summer.

And it said there could be travel “chaos” during the summer unless management got back round the negotiating table with an improved pay offer. The workers being balloted deal with passengers directly in airport security, terminal operations, search areas and process them for flights as well as screening deliveries, and dealing with airside support services. The ballot opens on May 5 and closes on May 23.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s members at Edinburgh Airport made huge sacrifices during the Covid pandemic. They agreed to reductions in pay and conditions. The workers did all this while working around the clock to keep the airport safe and running. The situation is entirely different now with passenger figures hitting over 11 million last year, and inflation stands at a 40-year high. Pay needs to keep up with the cost of living - simple. Edinburgh Airport bosses need to make a realistic pay offer to the staff if they are to avoid a summer of travel chaos.”

Carrie Binnie, Unite industrial officer, said: “Unite members’ pay in real terms has been cut by around 10 per cent over the last seven years, while £691.9m has flowed out the airport’s coffers in payments made to the parent company GIP, and in dividends to shareholders. This simply isn’t fair and our members are prepared to fight for a better deal. Unite wants to resolve this dispute at Edinburgh Airport through negotiation but airport management are stubbornly refusing to improve upon the current pay offer in any way.”

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Edinburgh Airport is estimated to be the sixth-busiest in the UK, attracting a total of 11.26m people in 2022. In 2019, the busiest ever year for a Scottish airport, Edinburgh Airport recorded 14.7 million passengers.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “It's disappointing that we are in this situation despite meeting the request of our unions – an 11 per cent pay rise along with a £1,000 cost of living payment. We believe this is a fair and competitive offer and one that was asked for by both of our recognised unions through our collective bargaining arrangement. Both said they would recommend the offer to members. One union saw overwhelming support for the agreed offer and we cannot understand why Unite campaigned against and rejected the very offer they asked us for.

“We have sought clarity on Unite’s membership numbers given the tight nature of the result where the vote against was carried by less than one per cent of the membership, and we have raised serious concerns about the integrity of the ballot and the number of members that voted. We hope to resolve these issues at our scheduled ACAS meeting to allow us to deliver the wage rise and cost of living payment that we want to pay our team.”

The spokesman said the comparison with the Gatwick one had to be seen in context. “Despite the challenges of Covid this will be the third pay rise given to the team at Edinburgh Airport since 2020. This is the first offer made by Gatwick in the same timeframe. This means that the Edinburgh team would have received an overall pay increase of 19.6% over the same time.”