Heathrow 'cynically suppressing pay' for lowest earners

Airport guilty of belatedly paying London Living Wage then capping any other pay increase

Reading time: 4 min

Unite has accused Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) airport of cynically attempting to suppress pay for its lowest paid workers.

HAL, which is a living wage employer, is seeking to finally pay the London Living Wage (LLW) foundation increase (which came into effect in January) to its lowest paid staff, increasing pay to £11.95 an hour.

However, HAL has stated that these workers will not receive any further percentage pay increase in full as the LLW will be taken as part of any increase.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Heathrow has been caught red-handed trying to use smoke and mirrors to deflate the earnings of its lowest paid staff. It is cynically using the increase in the London Living Wage as an excuse not to pay them a full pay increase. Frankly it is shameful. We cannot accept that our lowest paid members are having their pay ripped off in this way.”

Unite is currently involved in a longstanding pay dispute with Heathrow. Around 1,400 security officers at Terminal Five and in Campus Security (who are responsible for checking all vehicles and workers entering Heathrow), have taken two periods of strike action for a total of 15 days, causing considerable delays, disruption and flight cancellations at the airport. Further strike action is scheduled for 25, 26 and 27 May.

The workers have rejected a proposed pay increase of 10 per cent, as this does not address the decline in their pay. Unite’s research has revealed that the average remuneration of HAL workers has fallen by 24 per cent since 2017, in real terms. The company fired and rehired its entire workforce at the height of Covid in 2020, which dramatically cut the pay of many of its workforce.

Unite has also learned that Heathrow security officers are paid less than workers at other major airports in London and the South East. The officers, who were the highest paid prior to the Covid pandemic, are now paid between £5,000 and £6,000 per annum less than their counterparts at Stansted and Gatwick.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King added, “HAL has been exposed for the grasping, greedy entity that it truly is. Our members have seen pay reduced to such an extent that some workers are forced to use food banks, miss meals and default on rent and mortgage payments. Now there is this attempt to cheat the lowest paid workers out of their dues. It looks as if the moral compass of Heathrow Airport Ltd is well and truly broken.”

By Barckley Sumner