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Travel Chaos: SAS Ground Staff To Strike At Heathrow & Aberdeen

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Unite union has said baggage handlers and check-in staff at Heathrow and Aberdeen airports will strike next week unless there is movement on resolving a pay dispute. The workers are employed by SAS Ground Services UK Ltd.

A series of 48 hour strikes will begin at 4am hours on Tuesday, December 22nd and end at 4am on Thursday, December 24th, continuing during the same times on Saturday, December 26th and Sunday, December 27th, 2009 and again during the same period on Sunday, 3rd January and Monday, January 4th, 2010.

The stoppages will hit travellers on Turkish, Emirates and Thai airlines at London Heathrow; and KLM, Air France, Wideroe and Atlantic at Aberdeen.

On top of the pay dispute, Unite is seeking compensation for its members who have been told that they must transfer to a new ground handling employer in the new year with the closure of the final salary pension scheme as SAS wishes to sell this part of its business.  The union is questioning the company's 'cost-cutting' business strategy given that "vast bonuses" were recently paid to the company directors.

Kevin Hall, Unite regional industrial officer, said: "It is deeply regrettable that our members have been forced into a position where they have to threaten industrial action over the Christmas and New Year period to get this company to play fair.  A strike will cause considerable disruption to the travelling public at a very busy time of year. 

"We have been trying to get this company to move on a fair wage deal for months now.  It is obscene that they can fill the pockets of their directors yet deny workers fair wages and a decent pension, particularly as last year the UK workforce took job losses and pay cuts to help the company through a difficult time.

"This a slap in the face for a loyal workforce.  We appeal now to SAS to see sense, start talking and resolve this dispute."

To help the company in 2008, UK staff accepted redundancies and a pay deal of RPI minus 2%, while at Aberdeen, they took a cut of 8% in wages.

The last available figures show that in 2008, SAS UK Ltd made a profit of £1.2 million.  Four directors received bonuses totalling £193,000 - in addition to their salaries.

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