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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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UK faces spring of discontent

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The UK is facing a spring of discontent, with baggage handlers at Stansted airport voting to strike, doctors balloting for action in May and the police planning a protest that month too.

Holidaymakers travelling through Stansted over the Easter weekend face disruption after 150 members of the GMB union voted to take industrial action over claims that new contracts and shift patterns were hitting pay to the tune of £1,000.
 
The union described Swissport’s action as aggressive and said that the airport contractor would be to blame if travellers’ plans were disrupted. The firm provides services to airlines such as Ryanair and Monarch, but EasyJet flights will be unaffected.
 
The GMB has asked Swissport to reconsider the cuts, but warned that it intends to serve the legally-required seven days’ notice of strike action soon if there is no movement.
 
The company’s general manager, Richard Prince, said that the proposed changes to working patterns would help the company achieve some of the savings that it had to make to offset a fall in revenues, however. It also meant that it would be able to avoid axing jobs, he added.
 
“We are not cutting people’s pay. We are not increasing the amount of hours they work. We are asking people to spread their contractual hours over a five-day week and not a four-day week. We are keeping people in jobs,” Prince said.
 
Ballots abound
 
The British Medical Association said, meanwhile, that doctors would vote in May over whether to take industrial action if talks over planned changes to their pensions do not resume soon.
 
Such a ballot would be the first since 1975, but the BMA claims that it is necessary because the coalition government is refusing to engage “even to try to find a fairer way”.
 
Although it has ruled out a full walk-out over plans to impose higher pension contributions and delay retirement, action could include a day where staff refuse to perform “non-urgent” tasks that “could be safely postponed”.
 
Other action, which is planned for 10 May, is a public protest by rank-and-file police officers in central London in protest at proposed changes to their pay and conditions.
 
Although the Police Federation would not confirm what the plans involved, its 135,000 members across England and Wales are currently being balloted over whether they want the right to strike. Along with the armed forces and prison officers, police officers are currently legally prohibited from taking industrial action.
Author Profile Picture
Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett
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