Unite the Union made the claims after the firm’s remaining ground staff at Jersey Airport were stretched to the limit last Friday [25JUN]when fog led to a backlog of several aircraft all landing within about an hour of each other.
As a result, the workers, who attach steps to aircraft, load bags and push back planes from gates – among other duties – became overwhelmed. Many flights were forced to wait until ground crews became free, leading to long delays.
Work for the ground-handling crews has steadily increased in recent days after airlines moved in to their summer schedule.
Last week, Jet2 launched its six summer services, BA CityFlyer began services to London and other carriers ramped up their operations.
Meanwhile, Wizz Air is due to launch services to Cardiff and Doncaster next month.
In response to this and the problems experienced on Friday, Swissport said it has begun recruiting extra staff.
However, Unite the Union, which represents many of the company’s workers, allege that – months after they laid off 54 of their 100 staff following the outbreak of the pandemic – they are now asking them to come back on temporary contracts and lower pay.
James Turner, Unite’s Jersey regional officer, said: ‘The union has concerns over the safety, welfare and security of its membership employed within Swissport here in Jersey and indeed for the general public after the fiasco last Friday leading to significant delays.
‘After cuts were hastily made earlier this year Swissport are now attempting to tempt ex-employees back on lesser terms, conditions and pay, something we were suspicious of at the time, raising direct concerns over passenger and employee safety in the lack of numbers on the ground.
‘Measures should be taken urgently to prevent such delays in future. Any reasonable employer would have worked harder to retain the highly-skilled staff in readiness for the increase in public movement.’
In response to the claims made by Unite, a spokesperson for Swissport said: ‘We are aware that, on Friday 25 June, there was disruption at Jersey Airport when six aircraft arrived off schedule due to poor weather conditions and fog. Swissport followed the correct safety procedures for the circumstances.
‘However, we do apologise for any inconvenience caused to passengers and continue to make every effort to avoid similar disruption in future.’