Gatwick workers are being balloted for strike action over a “massive inequality” in pay.

Union Unite has served a ballot notice to 254 members who help disabled passengers at the airport through contractor Wilson James.

Workers employed by the logistics giant are paid significantly less than baggage trolley handlers employed directly by the airport, despite performing comparable tasks, and will be demanding a £1 per hour pay rise to begin addressing the wage gap.

Ballots will be sent out to workers working via Wilson James, who Unite estimates help 56,000 passengers a month at the airport, from October 15.

Unite regional officer Jamie Major said: “Our members take their responsibilities to the hundreds of thousands passengers they care for during their time at Gatwick very seriously.

“However, this blatant pay inequality can’t continue any longer.

“We calculate that our members look after 670,000 assisted passengers a year, many with disabilities, which is a big responsibility and should be valued appropriately by the employer.

“There is no rhyme nor reason why pushing luggage is valued more than helping people. Perhaps, it’s because airlines can charge more for heavy luggage to increase profits.

“It remains a mystery to our members. Gatwick Airport needs to get its priorities right, otherwise it will suffer huge reputational damage.

“The current pay of £8.27 an hour for our members is less than the voluntary UK living wage which is currently £8.75 outside London, and the South-East is one of the most expensive places to live in the country.

“If our members vote for strike action, this will adversely affect the Gatwick ‘experience’ for disabled travellers in the run-up to the peak Christmas holiday season.

“We wish to avoid any distress to disabled passengers and that’s why we are asking Wilson James management to get around the table to negotiate constructively to resolve this dispute.”

A spokeswoman for Wilson James said: “At Wilson James, we have committed to an ambitious change programme which includes investment in our employees, infrastructure and technology. 

“Since being awarded the contract at Gatwick, we have engaged with our union colleagues at Unite the Union to be open and transparent on the issue of employee compensation and wellbeing. 

"We remain committed to continuing this dialogue and look forward to resolving the outstanding pay award, so that our hard working employees can reap benefit from this year’s pay rise."