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Travellers face potential delays as Gibair employees take industrial action over pay

Archive photo by Johnny Bugeja.

Passengers flying to and from Gibraltar International Airport flights could face delays as Unite the Union members at ground handler Gibair start selective industrial action after negotiations over a pay claim broke down.

The action, which begins as from tomorrow, will see Gibair staff working on “go slow” and out of uniform.

The union urged travellers to “make suitable travel arrangements” due to the “potential delays that will be caused" as a result of the action.

The extent of any potential delays is not known at present, with the Gibraltar Government calling for disruption to be kept to a minimum.

Unite workers voted last week to take steps "short of strike action" but had hoped to resolve the dispute and avoid any disruption.

"Unite the Union has been engaged with both the Bland Group and [the Gibraltar Government] since December over pay," Unite said.

"But the negotiations to date have been inconsistent and frustrating for members, with [the Gibraltar Government] contributing a cost of living increase of 0% to the Gibair contract as well as the company only providing a 2% increase in employer pension contributions, with no increase for staff in pay."

"Staff at Gibair have not seen any wage increase for the last three years. The majority of staff earnings are only just above the minimum wage and are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the rise in inflation and cost of living."

"On a ballot conducted last week 92% of Unite members voted to take action short of strike action and 86% voted in favour of action including strike action."

Sam Hennessy, Regional Officer for Unite the Union, said negotiations had taken place over several months with little progress being made.

"We have urged the Bland Group to return back to the negotiating table in the interests of both staff and passengers since the strong mandate given by members in their ballot, however the company has not been willing to do so,” Mr Hennessy said.

In response the Bland Group, which Gibair forms part of, said it has worked closely with the Gibraltar Government to table a proposal to Gibair staff.

The Bland Group said they considered their proposal to be “fair given the current economic climate.”

“We recognize Gibair employees’ right to take industrial action and remain committed to ongoing dialogue with Unite the Union to help bring this situation to a successful resolution,” the Bland Group said.

Gibair has delivered ground handling operations at Gibraltar International Airport since 1947 and is the Gibraltar Government’s exclusive provider of ground handling services in five different operational areas.

These include ramp services; passenger services including special passenger assistance; cargo and mail services; load control, communication and flight operations services; representation and supervision services.

Gibair currently provides handling services to multiple airlines, including British Airways and Easyjet, and employs over 70 staff.

“The Government expects GibAir to maintain its commitment to provide a regular service at Gibraltar International Airport and does not expect that there should be any significant negative impact on passengers,” a Government spokesman said.

“Government respects the Union's right to take industrial action and to strike but calls on Unite the Union to bear in mind that many workers will themselves be using the services of Gibraltar Airport to take well-deserved holiday breaks or visit families.”

“Disruption should be kept at a minimum.”

This post was updated at 8.41pm to include responses from Gibair and the Gibraltar Government.

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