Security staff at Norwich Airport in strike threat

PUBLISHED: 06:30 22 May 2014 | UPDATED: 09:33 22 May 2014

Norwich International Airport terminal. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Norwich International Airport terminal. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Security staff at Norwich International Airport are threatening to walk out next month in the wake of a pay dispute with contractors Wilson James - but bosses insist that passengers will not be hit and they can cope with any summer disruption.

The firm, which operates security services on behalf of the airport, is locked in talks with the GMB union whose members have rejected its 2pc pay offer and have been pressing instead for a 4pc deal.

Now workers are set to be balloted on whether to go on strike or take industrial action such as work-to-rule which could begin in June unless a deal can be reached.

About 40 security staff work for the firm, including 28 GMB members employed in check-in and scanner roles, perimeter and airfield security, and ambi-lift duties, ferrying passengers with medical conditions.

Sean Kelly, operations director at Wilson James played down suggestions that the dispute could bring chaos to flights.

He said: “We have had a meeting with staff and unions. Negotiations continue, we have resolved many issues already and negotiations will continue next week.

“We are a large airport security firm with hundreds of aviation security staff,” he added. “I will continue to meet my operational commitments to the airport.

“I wouldn’t envisage any operational impact on the airport. I don’t want to be in that place and I don’t believe that the staff or the unions wan to be in that place either.”

But Ivan Mercer, regional organiser of the GMB union, said members had been frustrated by the firm’s approach to the negotiations and also angered by a take-it-or-leave-it letter sent out to staff.

“We do not want to take industrial action, that’s the last thing we want to do,” he said. “What we don’t want to do is disrupt the airport, but we have got to get the message across. We are hoping that brings the company to the table. We are talking about an international airport where the security staff are earning well below £8 an hour.

“The reality is that we are not actually negotiating with Wilson James because they say they have to deal with Norwich Airport. Our members are getting a little bit fed up with a third party deciding what they can and cannot earn.

“Over the last couple of years wages have fallen below inflation and we put in a claim that brings our members to just below £8 an hour. They have turned around and said they can give us 2pc. Our members overwhelmingly rejected that and are going to ballot for industrial action. They will get their ballot papers around May 28/29 and the first predicted date for action will be in June.”

An airport spokesman said: “Wilson James have given assurances to the airport that we won’t be operationally affected in any way. Passengers can expect it be business as usual during the summer season and we look forward to welcoming them to the airport.”

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