Prestwick Airport facing strike action over 'rock bottom pay'

Unite will ballot its members at the Ayrshire airport over strike action between July 5 and July 19.

Unite to ballot members at Prestwick Airport in Ayr for strike action in row over pay iStock
Strikes: Union members may take action over pay cuts amid rising inflation.

Prestwick Airport is set to be hit by strike action in the coming weeks, one of the country’s largest trade unions has confirmed.

Unite has said that it will ballot its members over claims that airport management refused to provide shift pay and meet the Real Living Wage rate for new starters.

The union also said members were angry about having to take a pay cut amid record inflation – adding that with the Retail Prices Index (RPI) standing at 11.7%, the offer for the workforce of between 4% and 6.5% was “a significant real terms pay cut”.

Prestwick Airport was taken into public ownership after the Scottish Government purchased it for £1 in November 2013.

Unite said it is now demanding the Scottish Government “practice what it preaches” as the airport’s failure to pay a Real Living Wage, despite being in public ownership, “undermines its much-trumpeted Fair Work agenda”.

An earlier consultative ballot revealed that 86% of Unite’s members who worked at the airport supported taking strike action. 

The ballot opened on July 5 and will run until July 19, and includes airport security, firefighters, airfield operators, ground crew, ground handling, cargo, customer services, and cleaners.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Prestwick Airport and the Scottish Government need to urgently improve their pay proposals for these workers.

“While directors’ pay is protected, workers are being told to take a substantial real terms pay cut. And disgracefully, they want to keep new starters on a rock bottom rate that is lower than the real living wage.

“Prestwick Airport and the Scottish Government need to put an improved offer on the table because Unite will resolutely support our members in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

Siobhan McCready, Unite industrial officer added: “Prestwick Airport is proposing to pay less than the Real Living Wage for some of our members, which makes a mockery of the Scottish Government’s Fair Work agenda. Both the airport and the Scottish Government should be setting a lead and practicing what they preach. It is double standards of the highest order. 

“The offer on the table is completely unacceptable and our members are not prepared to tolerate lousy pay. Simply put, they have had enough.” 

A spokesperson for Glasgow Prestwick Airport said: “Following extensive negotiations with unions the airport recently made an enhanced pay offer which will see 70% of our 300-plus employees receiving a pay increase of 6.5% or above, improvements to allowances, increased annual leave entitlement, enhanced sick pay provisions, and up to 2% more employer pension contributions. All qualified permanent staff will earn above the real living wage.

“This deal was accepted by the majority of our staff, including Prospect union members, but disappointingly was rejected by Unite.  Following a recent consultative ballot to support strike action, which was backed by just 15% of our staff, Unite is now formally balloting for potential strike action no earlier than mid-August.

“We await the outcome of the ballot and whilst any industrial action would be unwelcome and would further delay delivery of the pay deal to our staff, we will work hard to ensure that our customers are not impacted.”