The strikes by more than 4,000 workers at Heathrow due to take place on Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27 have been suspended while the workforce votes on a new pay offer, Unite said today (July 24).
Unite said it would not be revealing the details of the offer until its members involved in the ongoing pay dispute have had an opportunity to consider and vote on the new package.
However, Unite said that the strikes already announced for Monday, August 5 and Tuesday, August 6, and Friday, August 23 and Saturday, August 24 remained on the table until the result of the ballot was known.
Unite won’t be commenting further until the ballot result is declared.
Fire and rescue staff join strike action
Nearly 100 fire and rescue staff at Heathrow Airport have joined thousands of other Heathrow workers in voting in favour of strike action over pay, Unite announced this week (July 22).
The strength of feeling against the pay injustice they’ve suffered was reflected in the ballot’s near-unanimous figures — 97.6 percent of the balloted workers backed strike action on a turnout of 90 per cent.
Now, the fire and rescue workers will join over 4,000 Heathrow Airport workers in their second and third two-day strikes planned for Monday, August 5 and Tuesday, August 6 as well as Friday August 23 and Saturday, August 24.
The first two-day strike, which involves 4,000 security guards, engineers, and passenger service drivers is set to take place on Friday (July 26) and Saturday (July 27) unless there is a breakthrough in talks between Unite and Heathrow Airport through the conciliation service Acas.
The striking Heathrow Airport workers have chosen to walk out after rejecting an 18-month pay offer amounting to only 2.7 per cent — for the lowest paid workers involved in the dispute who already struggle to make ends meet, this amounts to a measly £3.75 extra per day.
Meanwhile, Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye received an eye-watering 103.2 per cent wage increase in 2018, which has brought his basic pay package up to more than £4m. The airport’s 12 directors share a further £7.051m between them, while the airport’s overall financial health is sound.
But as top bosses at Heathrow bask in their wealth, low-paid Heathrow workers, some of whom earn only £23,000 are not so lucky. This means it takes Holland-Kaye only two days of work to earn what Heathrow’s lowest paid workers take home in an entire year.
Heathrow Airport has further refused to negotiate on other issues such as pay parity — many airport workers have colleagues who are on significantly lower pay than they are for doing the exact same job. For example, security guards hired between 2014 and 2019 could be earning up to £6,000 less than a guard doing the same work who started the job before this time. They also get 40 per cent less on shift allowances and fewer days of holiday entitlement.
And while Unite has put forward a series of reasonable demands that have all been rejected, top boss Holland-Kaye has presided over a total breakdown of industrial relations — since he took the helm three years ago, there have been three industrial action ballots at Heathrow, compared to only three in the previous 14 years.
Commenting Unite regional officer Russ Bull said, “Bosses at Heathrow Airport need to heed this massive vote in favour of strike action by a group of workers who are essential to the airport’s safety.
“They need to seize the window of opportunity that talks at the conciliation service Acas offer and work with Unite to resolve this pay dispute. The disruption of strike action can be avoided, but only if Heathrow Airport bosses start listening to staff across the airport,” he added.
“Workers who are essential to the smooth and safe running of Heathrow are sick and tired of bosses pleading poverty and being told to accept a pittance of a pay rise, while shareholders receive billions in dividends and the chief executive pockets a pay rise of 103.2 per cent.
“Our members do not take strike action lightly, but they have grown increasingly frustrated. This is a dispute which could have been sorted months ago. It is time Heathrow Airport started talking seriously about a fair pay rise which recognises the vital role they play in keeping passengers on the move.”
Stansted strike suspended
Meanwhile, a 24-hour strike action at Stansted Airport due on Thursday (July 25) which would have affected thousands easyJet passengers was averted after the action was suspended as staff vote on a new pay offer.
Unite represents 43 passenger service agents employed by Stobart Aviation Services Limited, which has the easyJet contract at the Essex airport.
Unite regional officer Mark Barter reported positive talks with the company on Monday (July 22) through the conciliation service Acas and said that an improved offer had been put on the table.
“This offer will not be revealed until our members have considered and voted on it. The ballot result should be known on Thursday morning,” he said, noting that the while Thursday’s strike is suspended, strikes running from Friday (July 26) until Monday (July 29) are due to go ahead if the offer is rejected.
“We are also pleased to announce that the company has now signed a recognition agreement with Unite for trade union collective bargaining purposes, which was a key demand of our members,” he added.
Unite said that there are also strikes planned for August 2 to 5; August 9 to 12; August 16 and 19; and August 23 and 27.