Swissport, Swisswhine: Baggage fiasco in Gatwick airport tied to low wage contractor
Following on from Heathrow T5 fiasco where BA fliers had problems of no luggage for a few days, we now hear about luggage problems with passengers going through Gatwick. In the Heathrow example,the issue was equipment related. In Gatwick’s case, the problem is staffing. It seems that the contractor, Swissport, cannot get staff to want to work.
From the Telegraph:-
Travellers flying from Gatwick this weekend can expect chaotic scenes because Swissport, the baggage handling firm, does not have enough workers to load and unload planes. Two airlines warned that difficulties at the airport could worsen over the next four months because airlines are locked in to contracts with Swissport.
The problem is most acute at weekends because the firm is using staff on zero-hours contracts who do not wish to work anti-social hours, it is claimed.
Airlines using Swissport at Gatwick for baggage handling services include British Airways, Virgin, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson.
The firm is having its contract terminated by at least one airline after it was blamed for failing to load passengers’ bags on to outgoing planes and not returning luggage to those arriving at Gatwick.
It get’s worse.
On Wednesday some Britons were still abroad without their bags after flying out five days ago. The passengers left Gatwick last weekend, when staff shortages at Swissport also led to passengers having to wait up to four hours for their baggage after landing. Others were sent home to wait days for luggage to be delivered to them.
In some cases holidaymakers missed connecting flights in Europe because of delays loading luggage on to departing planes.
One Team GB Paralympian was stranded for more than four hours at baggage reclaim as he waited for his wheelchair to be returned to him. The delays came after passengers flying into Gatwick earlier this month had to wait up to 90 minutes to reclaim their bags.
Four hours ! What a fiasco but let’s come back to point bolded, Zero-hour contracts. From Wikipedia
A zero-hour (or zero hours and sometimes zero contract hours) contract is a type of contract of employment in use in the United Kingdom and containing provisions which create an “on call” arrangement between employer and employee. The employer asserts that they have no obligation to provide work for the employee.The employee agrees to be available for work as and when required, so that no particular number of hours or times of work are specified. The employee is expected to be on call and receives compensation only for hours worked.
The zero hour contact is a relatively new idea in UK but it highly controversial in that there is no promise of work yet you are on the hook to be on call. Recently, the UK government had to mandate that workers under zero hour contracts could not be forbidden to work elsewhere. Incredible that they even had such restriction.
So what we have here is a contractor company that is provides a critical service to many airline companies, operating a highly questionable employment contract. If you had no promise of work, who the Hades would want to work in such a company? Not only that but this part of the country is not short of jobs. No wonder no one is motivated to show up for work if this is how they are treated.
Do we blame Swissport? Not necessarily. Swissport is owned by PAI Partners, a French private equity firm. A private equity firm loyalty lies to themselves to maximize their Euro returns. Their motives are clear.
In fact, we blame the airlines who willingly ventured into contracts without due diligence to auditing such a contractor and for thinking through the implications to their core business. In our opinion, the Airlines signed a contract without appropriate penalty clauses to the contracto. Swissport’s use of zero hour contracts was a clear red flag.
We are sorry for the Gatwick passengers but it serves you right Airlines. Your top management need to understand that cost cutting is not always the cheapest option.