'All in this together'?

Heathrow rejects workers’ offer to payback bonuses to help avert industrial action

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Management at Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) have rejected out of hand proposals made by Unite the union, which could have averted the possibility of industrial action.

Using a controversial fire and rehire scheme, HAL is currently in the process of trying to force over 4,000 workers to accept pay cuts of up to £8,000 per annum (25 per cent of their pay), which would plunge them into poverty.

Under the proposals put forward by Unite, all workers would have returned their airport profit bonus of £700 each and all directors, including the chief executive John Holland Kaye, would also have returned their bonuses. Mr Holland Kaye was contractually entitled to a £565,965 bonus and a share in success payment of £1.043 million due to be paid in August.

Shareholders would also have been expected to return the £100 million of dividends paid to them earlier this year.

In addition to staff returning their bonuses, Unite proposed that the majority of staff (aside from new starters on lower rates of pay) have their pay rates revert back to December 2019 levels.

As a consequence of Heathrow’s fire and rehire pay cuts policy, Unite has begun balloting members for industrial action. The ballot closes on Thursday 5 November.

Unite has argued that HAL is guilty of using the Covid pandemic as cover for forcing through long held ambitions to cut staff wages and as a consequence the dispute is all about ‘greed and not need’.

This is further emphasised by the pay cuts being permanent and not temporary in nature.

Research by Unite has revealed that Heathrow Airport is drowning in long-term debt, with huge amounts of money paid out in dividends and payments to Mr Holland Kaye and his fellow directors far outstripping what other comparative airport operators receive.

The bandit capitalism model being pursued by Heathrow has placed it in a financially precarious position and potentially threatens its long-term viability.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said, “Unite presented clear alternatives to Heathrow’s management which would have offset the need to make such draconian pay cuts.

“Our proposals were rejected out of hand, with the company even lacking the good grace to fully cost what had been proposed.

“Unite has consistently said since this dispute began that the pay cuts are all about greed and not need, management’s refusal to even engage in considering alternatives proposals bears this out,” he added.

“Management have constantly refused to answer why they are demanding permanent pay cuts. If this was about coping with the affect the pandemic has had on aviation, then any pay cuts would be temporary, to allow the sector to recover.

“HAL has continually told us ‘we’re all in this together’, but while our members are prepared to repay their bonus for 2019 the directors have flatly refused. We’re clearly not even vaguely in this together.”

By Barckley Sumner

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