Heathrow airport set to grind to halt as strikes announced

Heathrow workers to take targeted strike action over fire and rehire plans

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Workers at Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) are set to take targeted strike action in the dispute over plans to fire and rehire its 4,000 workers on vastly reduced pay.

The strike action by members of Unite will involve firefighters, engineers, campus security, baggage operations, operational and airside workers and will effectively close the airport. The workforce at HAL recorded an 85 per cent vote in favour of industrial action

The first 24 hour strike will take place on Tuesday, December 1, with a further one day stoppage on Monday, December 14 A 48-hour stoppage will take place on Thursday and Friday, December 17 and 18.

Heathrow Airport, which has repeatedly boasted that it has cash reserves to survive for 15 months even if a single plane does not land at the airport, is trying to force workers to accept permanent pay cuts of up to £8,000 per annum (a quarter of their total pay).

Unite’s announcement of strike dates follows a decision by Heathrow to inflict even more misery on its workforce.

Workers are being called to one-to-one meetings over the fire and hire proposals. At the meeting workers are given four options: to accept the terms of the new contract with a lump sum payment, a phased buy down over two years of the new contract, voluntary severance, or resignation/termination of their contract.

HAL has unilaterally told the 4,000 strong workforce that they will have just 24 hours to make a decision.

In a further new low for HAL’s management, workers are being told that if they try to utilise their legal right to sign a new contract under protest it will be classed as a refusal and the worker will lose their job.

The way in which workers are being treated is likely to greatly worsen the epidemic of mental and physical ill health which is detrimentally affecting workers at the airport.

Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King said, “Workers are taking strike action as a direct result of Heathrow Airport’s brutal proposals to fire and rehire them on greatly reduced wages.

“The airport is using the Covid-19 pandemic as a smokescreen to permanently cut workers’ pay.

“Unite has put forward several alternative suggestions to reduce staffing costs on a temporary basis, all of which have been summarily rejected by management,” he added.

“The way that workers, who are already suffering extreme levels of stress and anxiety, are being treated by HAL’s management, demonstrates that they have apparently learned all their skills of tact and diplomacy from Donald Trump.

“These decisions will turn Heathrow from one of the most successful airports in the world into a workplace run on bullying and intimidation, it’s disgraceful. In the midst of a global pandemic no key worker should be forced to take such deep pay cuts by an employer that claims to have billions in reserves.

“The government should start to take a serious look at how our country’s largest airport is being run and financed,” King went on to say.

“Management are using the vilest form of bullyboy tactics of fear and intimidation and are trying to force workers virtually overnight to accept new contracts which force them and their families into poverty.

“The long-term damage to morale at the airport is indescribable, and we have to question if productivity levels will ever recover.

“This strike action will undoubtedly cause a great deal of disruption to passengers and cargo deliveries using the airport but this is purely a result of the company’s appalling treatment of workers,” he continued.

“Unite is fully prepared to take part in talks to resolve this dispute anytime, anyplace and anywhere.”

By Barckley Sumner

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