June 2, 2016 / 2:08 PM / in 3 years

Airport workers demand better pay from airlines as profits rise

DUBLIN, June 2 (Reuters) - Airport workers and trade unions picketed a meeting of global airline chiefs on Thursday, demanding the industry improve staff pay and conditions as new figures showed airlines should make more money than anticipated this year.

A small group of workers from the United States, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden gathered outside the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) annual meeting in Dublin, warning of adverse consequences for safety and security at airports.

Airports United, a new group backed by unions representing tens of millions of transport workers, said that while global airline profits have risen four-fold over the past five years, labour costs fell 5.5 percent between 2014 and 2015.

Airports United said workers flew banners and handed out leaflets addressing their concerns in over 30 airports around the world ahead of the gathering of top airline executives in the Irish capital.

One protester, Mikeyra Samuda, who earns $10.10 cleaning planes at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, said workers did not have enough equipment or supplies and worked in an unsafe environment, with up to 14 of her colleagues bussed to aircraft each day in an eight-seat minibus.

“We hear a colleague talk about workers crowding onto a bus with insufficient seating and these guys are riding golf carts to go from breakfast to the meeting rooms. It’s obscene,” Alice Dale, head of property services at UNI Global Union, told a news conference, referring to executives at the IATA meeting.

“They have had record profits year after year after year and yet they lead the race to the bottom. It’s about stress, health and safety, irregular work hours and inadequate pay. Workers and passengers are at risk.”

IATA, which raised its forecast for net profit for the industry this year to $39.4 billion from $36.3 billion previously, said industry research found that workers earn close to the average wage in their respective countries.

With fuel expected to represent just under 20 percent of expenses this year, down from 33 percent high in 2012-13, labour is probably now the biggest cost and is more or less staying under control, IATA Chief Economist Brian Pearce said.

“As they make more money than ever before, the pressure they put on us workers is growing,” said Eduardo Lopez, who works for an inflight catering company in New York. “Enough is enough.” (Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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