Swissport management must engage to avert looming strike action by baggage-handlers at Belfast City Airport

George BrashThreat to lock out workers has galvanised support for strike action and solicited widespread expressions of solidarity

Management must use remaining days to engage positively or seek mediation through the Labour Relations Agency

October 18th: Unite Regional Industrial Officer, George Brash, has criticised the irresponsibility of Swissport management who appear intent on forcing serious disruption to services as a result of industrial action planned at Belfast City Airport commencing Monday [October 23rd]:

“Sixty percent of our members in Swissport voted for strike action in defence of a union representative dismissed by management as part of a sustained campaign targeting him for his trade union activities.

“Initially Swissport issued a letter to workers attempting to play down the dispute and claiming that they had taken steps to ensure that no disruption would result from any strike action. After Unite communicated detail of our planned action which was geared to ensure that they could not ignore our members’ concerns, Swissport responded with a brutal threat to ‘lock out’ any workers engaging in lawful and legitimate industrial action.

“This has only redoubled the commitment of their workforce to defend their union and their union representative. Indeed management threats have generated widespread solidarity from across the trade union movement. Over a number of days our members have been inundated with expressions of support both local and international for their stand for basic workers’ rights.

“Swissport’s actions will only result in an escalation of this dispute. This has now been raised with Swissport nationally by the Unite National Negotiating Committee. Unite’s membership in Swissport will not watch as one of our representatives is targeted by arrogant bosses.

“Collective organisation, active membership of a trade union, and to withdraw labour in a democratic manner are fundamental human rights which we will defend to the last. Our union’s multi-million strike fund will support members who suffer financial hardship as a result of a management lockout imposed for the crime of taking lawful industrial action.

“I am calling on Swissport – even at this late stage – to reverse course and to engage positively with our union to avert the disruption that will inevitably result from this dispute. If they do not want to engage with us directly they can seek the mediation of the Labour Relations Agency. Their failure to do so to date has been nothing less than irresponsible”, Mr Brash concluded.

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