The managing director of Manchester Airport has resigned her position following days of chaos at the start of the Easter holidays.
Karen Smart has been with Manchester Airports Group (MAG) for eight years and in her current role for the last two.
In a statement MAG, which also owns East Midlands and Stansted airports, said she has “decided now is the time to return to the south of England, where her family is based, to pursue fresh career opportunities”.
Travellers have faced long delays and chaotic scenes with queues trailing outside terminals to reach check-in and hordes of people waiting to get through security and to pick up luggage.
Piles of suitcases have been left in terminals after travellers abandoned the wait to reclaim their baggage and instead left for home.
The airport, along with much of the aviation industry, has struggled to recruit staff made redundant after the pandemic shutdown airports and travel.
John O’Neill, North West Regional Industrial Officer for Unite, said later on Tuesday union officials will be meeting management at Manchester Airport to discuss pay.
He said after mass redundancies due to Covid, some workers have found alternative jobs with similar wages and may not be willing to return to work at the airport doing unsocial hours for similar rates of pay.
Mr O’Neill said: “There is a huge problem with recruitment, a massive problem with recruitment.
“This is the test for summer, the Easter break, is the test for summer.
“Summer is going to be far worse than this. It is the time to get everything in place otherwise summer is going to very difficult.”
Manchester Airports Group, which also runs Stansted and East Midlands airport, is partly owned by the 10 local authorities of Greater Manchester, with the biggest stake held by Manchester Council.
Mr Burnham has said although the airport was run independently of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which he heads as mayor, it matters “hugely” to the city-region.
The MAG airport site is currently offering jobs for drivers with a starting salary of £13,000 a year and security ‘ambassador’ jobs targeted for students paying £10.53 per hour, including night shifts, 3am starts, weekends and bank holidays.
Last year’s annual report for Manchester Airport showed the top earning director was paid £2.5m in 2021, a £500,000 increase on the previous year, and pay for directors as a whole increased from £5.9m to £7.3m in 2021.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Bargain-basement wages and insecure jobs must be consigned to the past if the sector wants to get back on track.
“It is pretty simple – if you want to thrive, treat your workers with respect and don’t attack their jobs, pay and conditions.”
A spokesman for MAG yesterday apologised to passengers but stressed the whole industry is facing staff shortages and a rapid increase in passenger numbers as the summer season begins.
A statement on the talks is expected from Mr Burnham on Wednesday.
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