Unite is warning that aviation company Menizes, which is threatening to make redundancies at Heathrow, must start following the rules or face the legal and industrial consequences.
The company, which employs over 2,500 workers at Heathrow, who undertake baggage handling, check-in and front of house roles, yesterday wrote to its workforce warning they were at risk of redundancy.
The letters were sent despite the company failing to notify Unite, the recognised union, officially that it was seeking to make redundancies and how many jobs would be lost, which is a basic legal requirement.
Menzies provides its services to a number of blue chip airlines at Heathrow including American Airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Lot, Cathay Pacific, Aer Lingus and Quantas.
In a further example of bad practice, Menzies is using the furlough scheme to pay workers who have been made redundant but effectively keeping them ‘handcuffed’ to the company.
Workers employed on a refuelling contract were made redundant while furloughed but Menzies is refusing to pay their notice pay upfront. Instead the workers will be paid for a further 12 weeks (their notice pay period) by the government through the Job Retention Scheme. Only then will they receive their redundancy pay meaning they cannot seek alternative employment until that time.
Unite has also got severe concerns that Menzies is forcing staff that it has furloughed to take annual leave rather than allowing them to carry forward holidays into future years as the government has suggested.
Unite regional officer Kevin Hall said, “Menzies have got to start playing by the rules or Unite will take legal or industrial action to ensure they do.
“The company is pitching a loyal workforce into great uncertainty and inevitable hardship when it could follow a different course.
“Menzies must withdraw its at risk letters and restart this process properly.
“Unite is sure that the many prestigious airlines that Menzies provides services for at Heathrow will be alarmed that a loyal workforce is being treated in this manner.
“It is morally wrong that Menzies is corrupting the furlough scheme, requiring the government to in effect paying the notice pay of workers who are furloughed and who will not be returning to work. This is not what the JRS was set up for.
“Unite understands that the aviation sector is facing unprecedented challenges but that is no excuse not to follow basic legal requirements or to treat workers with decency and respect.
“Unite is committed to ensuring its members are fully represented and fairly treated during this distressing time.”
Research commissioned by Unite has found that Heathrow generates £9.7 billion for the economy and supports a total of 190,000 jobs. In total 40 per cent of the local population is reliant on the aviation sector for their livelihood.
Unite has produced a blueprint of how the government should intervene across the entire aviation sector including airlines and airports to protect the jobs and conditions of workers. Such loans would come with strict strings attached regarding executive pay, corporate governance and requiring stringent environmental standards to be adopted to radically reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.
By Barckley Sumner