Prestwick Airport staff set to walk out over pay dispute

Staff at Prestwick Airport are set to walk out over a pay dispute - amid warning the action will disrupt flights and jeopardise the airport’s post pandemic recovery.

Union bosses said the strikes were aimed at hitting cargo and military flights, but services by Ryanair - the airport’s only passenger operator - could also be affected.

Workers plan to walk out on four days a week for a month from August 5. It comes after members voted by 78 per cent for stoppages over a ‘real terms pay cut and poverty pay’.

More than 80 workers are involved, including security staff, firefighters, airfield operators, ground crew, ground handlers, cargo, customer services and cleaners.

The action will take place every Friday, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. Unite said the dispute centred on the airport’s refusal to pay shift allowances or pay the real living wage of £9.90 an hour to new staff.

It has demanded a ‘significant’ pay increase and said the latest offer from the airport was between four and 6.5 per cent.

Unite said talks with the airport at the conciliation service Acas would resume on Thursday afternoon in a ‘last-ditch’ attempt to reach a deal before strike action.

General secretary Sharon Graham said: “Prestwick Airport management have one last chance before their rock-bottom pay offer results in strike action.

“The last offer was not only well below inflation, but it also proposes to pay new starters a rate lower than the real living wage.”

Unite industrial officer Siobhan McCready said she was not hopeful of progress at Acas because of the airport’s ‘arrogant attitude towards the workforce’.

She said: “Our strike action will specifically target days which are designed to lessen the impact on passenger travel and instead will initially hit freight and military cargo, which is the airport’s biggest traffic.

“Unite’s members have overwhelmingly backed strike action because they are angry and frustrated.”

A spokesperson for the airport said: “We are extremely disappointed that Unite has proposed such an extreme strike action plan - especially on the basis of only having support of just 18 per cent of our workforce.

“Its confrontational approach jeopardises the fragile recovery of the airport following the pandemic and is denying the majority of our workforce a pay deal which will see 70 per cent of our 300 employees receiving a pay increase of 6.5 per cent or above, improvements to allowances, increased annual leave entitlement, enhanced sick pay provisions, and up to two per cent more employer pension contributions.

“The majority of our workforce have already backed our pay offer, which will also see all qualified staff earn above the real living wage and are keen to see it implemented as soon as possible.

“Unlike most other airports, we directly appoint our staff, making us one of the biggest employers in Ayrshire.

“We urge Unite to reconsider their plans, and work with us to realise our ambitions, which will have a positive impact on the local economy at a critical time for the region.”