By Mick Duncan
About 70 porters at the second biggest airport in the UK staged a solid two-day strike over Christmas. Action is now on hold while uncertainty rains over who will be holding the contract beyond the next few weeks.
The workers currently work for a the facilities giant Interserve. Interserve’s last posted profits were £88 million yet apparently they couldn’t afford to offer a penny on the minimum wage to their porters. After months of delaying by the company, the mainly Asian workforce, who only won union recognition in early 2009, decided enough was enough and delivered a 100% vote in favour of strike action. They matched this resolve with a similarly solid walkout.
But a potential transfer of the portering contract to a new company fell through in January, leaving it unclear who to direct campaigning against and stalling the action. What is clear is that Interserve and the new airport owners, Gatwick Airport Limited, who bought the airport for £1.5 billion, can easily afford to settle the claim for living wage for this group of workers.
A two month extension to Interserve’s contract runs out later this month. The patience of the workers, who have been waiting for far too long to have their claim settled, runs out on the same day. Watch this space.