Heathrow airport witnesses thousands of travellers on a daily basis, but that might change for a few days as trade union for airport employees warn authorities of a series of strikes.
Unite, the trade union representing airline workers have announced a chain of dates over six days in July and including the long weekend in August where more than 4,000 airport workers – including security guards, engineers, passenger service operatives and passenger service drivers – will stage strikes which could potentially shut down the airport in July and August. The proposed strike dates could result in cancelled flights as well as long queues and, given that it is peak summer, affect more than a million holiday travellers.
The dates for the strike announced by Unite currently are 26 July and 27 July, 5 August and 6 August, and 23 August and 24 August. The strikes escalated after the union demanded action over massive pay gaps between the lowest-paid workers and those in senior positions.
For instance, an 18-month pay offer of 2.7% or £3.75 a day extra for its lowest-paid workers was rejected by the airport while at the same time Heathrow airport’s chief executive officer, John Holland-Kaye received a 103.2% pay increase in 2018 and his basic pay climbed from £2.097 million in 2017 to £4.2 million in 2018.
Unite’s regional coordinating officer Wayne King said in a statement: “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.
“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.”
Following the announcement, a Heathrow spokesperson said in a statement: “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.”
It also reassured that “70% of frontline colleagues will receive at least a 4.6% pay increase. The remaining 30% will receive at least 3.2% pay increase. Both will be over an 18-month period.”
In the wake of the announcement, Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, told The Telegraph: “Whatever the rights and wrongs of a dispute, there can’t be any justification for actively trying to disrupt people’s summer holidays at such a busy time of year.
“I hope the unions will think twice before going ahead with these disputes and undermining people’s summer.”