Heathrow risks closure amidst strike action over pay dispute
Travel over the summer at the UK’s only hub airport could face disruption following the news that more then 4,000 workers plan to walk out over a pay dispute.
Summer travel chaos at Heathrow Airport is looming large, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, Unite has warned after workers across the airport’s five terminals announced strike action in a dispute over pay.
Over 4,000 workers, including security guards, engineers, passenger service operatives and passenger service drivers, are set to walk out on Friday 26 July and Saturday 27 July, Monday 5 August and Tuesday 6 August, and Friday 23 August and Saturday 24 August, in a move that could potentially shut down the airport.
It comes after the workers backed strike action in eight separate strike ballots. The planned strikes follow the rejection of an 18 month pay offer amounting to 2.7 per cent, which according to Unite amounts to just £3.75 extra a day for the lowest paid workers involved in the dispute.
The action comes amid deepening anger over pay disparities between workers doing the same job at the airport and the ‘massive’ pay package of Heathrow Airport’s Chief Executive Officer John Holland-Kaye. Last year the Heathrow boss received a 103.2 per cent pay increase with his basic remuneration package rising from £2.097 million in 2017 to £4.2 million in 2018.
Unite represents over 4,000 Heathrow Airport workers who are involved in the pay dispute.
Commenting Unite regional coordinating officer, Wayne King, said: “There is deepening anger over pay among workers who are essential to the smooth running of Heathrow Airport.
“They are fed up of being expected to accept crumbs while the Chief Executive pockets an eye popping 103 per cent rise in his pay package and shareholders are handed dividends of over £2 billion in the last two years alone.
“To add insult to injury there are widening pay disparities leading to airport security guards employed after 2014 earning up to £6,000 less than colleagues hired before that date.
“Unite members ensured over 80 million passengers passed safely through Heathrow in the last 12 months and contributed massively to the airport’s huge profits last year. Unite and our members support Heathrow expansion and are working hard to deliver it, but we will not allow Heathrow bosses to get away with low pay.
“All our members are seeking is a pay deal that recognises their important role in keeping passengers safe and on the move, in addition to a commitment by Heathrow bosses to close pay disparities which are leading to a high turnover of staff.
“Bosses at Heathrow Airport need to get their heads out of the sand and start negotiating meaningfully over pay. Otherwise there will be significant disruption to flights to and from Heathrow and the potential closure of the airport over the summer months because of industrial action.”
In a statement, Heathrow commented: “We are disappointed that Unite will be taking strike action. Following this decision, we will be implementing contingency plans that will ensure the airport remains open and operating safely throughout any coordinated action. We will be working alongside our airline partners to minimise disruption caused to passengers as they look towards their well-deserved summer holidays.
“We are proud of our record as a good employer and we remain committed to finding a solution. We have proposed a progressive pay package giving at least a 4.6 per cent pay rise to over 70 per cent of our frontline colleagues. The total package offered is above RPI and is specifically designed to boost the wages of lower paid colleagues. We have invited our union colleagues back to the table and urge them to continue working with us to reach an agreement.”