‘Heathrow is exploiting the pandemic’

MPs challenge Heathrow bosses over cuts to workers’ pay and conditions

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At a meeting with Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) yesterday (Monday 5 October), MPs representing constituencies around the airport challenged chief executive officer John Holland-Kaye over the company’s decision to make permanent cuts to the pay, terms and conditions of thousands of employees.

The MPs particularly criticised the airport for making these cuts permanent, rather than considering temporary changes to get through the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The workers face losing up to £8,000 per year, around 25 per cent of their total income. Over 4,000 workers are affected by HAL’s proposals.

The group of MPs included James Murray MP, Ealing North; Rt Hon John McDonnell MP, Hayes and Harlington; Ruth Cadbury MP, Brentford and Isleworth; Seema Malhotra MP, Feltham and Heston; Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP, Slough; and Virendra Sharma MP, Ealing, Southall.

The MPs have been working closely with Unite to put pressure on airport bosses.

Members of Unite employed directly by Heathrow, including security officers, engineers, airside operatives and firefighters, will begin balloting for industrial action this Thursday (8 October), after Heathrow decided to issue formal notice of their intention to ‘fire and rehire’ staff.

The ballot closes on Thursday 5 November and if members vote for industrial action then strikes could begin later next month.

James Murray MP said, “There is no excuse for Heathrow making these damaging and permanent cuts to their employees’ terms, conditions and pay. We have been pushing the government to help the aviation industry as one of those sectors hit hardest by the Covid-19 outbreak, but Heathrow needs to play its part too and think again.”

‘No excuse’

John McDonnell MP said, “Let’s be clear Heathrow Ltd is exploiting the pandemic crisis to impose cuts in wages and terms of employment on its workers. There is no excuse for the company imposing permanent wage cuts when we know that this crisis is temporary. This is an act of bad faith.”

Seema Malhotra MP said, Many residents have been in touch concerned for their jobs and the future for themselves and their families. Heathrow should be a positive example that others follow. For a situation that is temporary, we shouldn’t be seeing permanent changes to terms and conditions. The answer must be through dialogue. I urge Heathrow to continue talks with the unions and to reach agreement.”

And Virenda Sharma MP said, “Hundreds of the lowest paid staff have been let go, Heathrow’s commitment that there is a job for anyone who wants one is hollow when they cancel contracts leaving hundreds without work. If Heathrow are serious about supporting our local area then pay cuts will only be temporary and contractually pay will return to current levels when Heathrow again pays dividends.”

The support was welcomed by Unite.

“The support of local MPs is warmly welcomed by our members who are facing losing their homes, being forced to downsize or being denied the chance to start a family due to the planned cuts in pay,” commented Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said.

“Heathrow Airport Ltd must take the concerns of MPs on board, withdraw its hire and fire proposals and return to the negotiating table,” he concluded.

By Barckley Sumner

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