Luton Airport travellers with mobility issues could feel the impact of strike action during Christmas run up

Staff employed to help disabled passengers say they are on 'poverty pay'

Wednesday, 15th December 2021, 11:51 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th December 2021, 3:25 pm

Luton Airport passengers with mobility issues could be facing disruption to their Christmas travel plans after contractors announced they were taking strike action over pay from Sunday.

The Unite union says workers employed by contractor Wilson James will take industrial action in an effort to earn more than what they claim is "poverty pay".

The strike will begin at 5am on Sunday, December 19 and end at 4.59am on Thursday, December 23.

London Luton Airport

The Wilson James workers are employed to assist passengers with mobility issues to board and disembark flights. The union says front of house workers are paid only the minimum wage of £8.91 an hour, while the drivers who transport passengers to and from planes airside and are required to possess a class 2 HGV licence receive just £10 an hour.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Workers employed by Wilson James at Luton Airport have an important role caring for vulnerable passengers. They should not be expected to undertake it on poverty rates of pay.

"Yet another big business is telling UK workers to get by on breadline wages, and this is just not acceptable.

“Unite always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members, which is why Wilson James' workers will be receiving the full support of their union until this dispute is resolved.”

Wilson James operates the passenger mobility service on an outsourced contract, tendered by Luton Airport. Wilson James acquired the contract in February 2021 and Unite understands that Luton Airport has refused to increase the value of the contract to fund a pay rise.

A picket line will be in place on the approach to the airport during the dispute.

Unite regional officer Jeff Hodge said: “We have tried to settle this through negotiation but the employer and Luton Airport are not cooperating. This strike will cause considerable disruption to passengers with mobility issues but our members simply can’t endure poverty pay any longer.

"The cost of living is climbing every day and our members must be able to put food on the table.

“Even at this late stage the strike and disruption can be avoided. Wilson James and Luton Airport simply have to come forward with a fair pay offer for our members.”

A spokesperson for Wilson James said: “Wilson James remains committed to transparent engagement with our colleagues and our client Luton Airport, including our union partners. Discussions continue in this spirit.”

A Luton Airport spokesman said: "Our priority is ensuring all passengers continue to have a smooth journey through the airport."