Guernsey: Airport staff win union recognition with wildcat strike

Grounded: Flybe aircraft at Guernsey airport
Grounded: Flybe aircraft at Guernsey airport

Over 30 security workers with Group 4 Securicor stopped work on Tuesday and blocked Guernsey airport's departure lounge until bosses signed a recognition agreement with the T&G.

Submitted by Steven. on March 8, 2007

Airlines Flybe and Aurigny were affected by the disruption as flights were grounded for an hour. reported on the anger of airport bosses that the surprise action provoked, although for the workers the action rapidly achieved its goals.

Their article stated: AIRPORT security staff who went on strike yesterday have been accused of holding passengers to ransom.

The claim came from Flybe, which was caught off-guard by the unexpected industrial action.
Aurigny, too, was annoyed by the unannounced stoppage.

Director Colin Le Ray was ‘frustrated’ at being kept in the dark about Group 4 Securicor’s wildcat strike, which saw hundreds stranded and caused delays throughout the day.

‘We would hope there would be some kind of warning if action was contemplated in the future,’ he said.

‘We have made that clear to the Transport & General Workers’ Union and to Securicor as well.’

The T&G has not explained why it chose to disrupt passengers, and management remained silent yesterday. Regional industrial organiser Ron Le Cras said the decision not to pre-warn authorities had been made collectively at Monday night’s staff meeting.

‘G4S staff wanted it kept confidential and we honoured that,’ he said.

‘The decision was taken late Monday night. We have a good relationship with the airport – this business was between G4S management and staff.’

The industrial action involved more than 30 security workers and brought the airport to a standstill.

G4S staff blocked the departure lounge entrance just after 6am and refused to budge until bosses had signed a recognition agreement allowing the T&G to negotiate better pay and working conditions. The firm finally relented and agreed to the terms just after 7.30am.

G4S is contractually employed by the airport to carry out staff and passenger security screening as well as on site apron patrols.

Mr Le Ray could not recall that happening before.

‘To the best of my knowledge, we have never seen a time where the security service is withdrawn for industrial action,’ he said.

Flybe and Aurigny both suffered hold-ups.

‘Although our passengers were frustrated by the delay, they understood that the situation was beyond Flybe’s control,’ said an airline spokesperson.

‘While we have sympathy for the security staff, we do not believe that holding customers to ransom in this manner will help their cause.’

Aurigny managing director Malcolm Hart said inter-island services were running on schedule, but the airline had to play catch-up with other services to the UK.

‘It’s not for me to comment on the reasons and politics behind the strike, but it would have been courteous if there had been some forewarning,’ he said.

‘The first we heard of this was at 6.15 this morning – hardly time for my employees to prepare and give prior warning to our passengers.’

G4S managing director Phil Taylor could not be contacted for comment. Negotiations between T&G and G4S are expected to continue at the beginning of next week.

One former T&G member and anarchist told "These actions are inspiring, and really show that self-organised direct action which defies anti-union laws can win gains. I hope that getting union recognition won't mean that in future these workers will let themselves be confined to the legalistic framework of the T&G, and can still take this kind of unofficial action."