Unite, the principal aviation union, has accused Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to permanently cut the pay and conditions of its workforce, a move Unite has described as being about ‘greed, not need’.
Heathrow is proposing slashing workers’ terms and conditions including cutting pay up to 37 per cent, closing the final salary pension scheme and removinig all paid breaks and allowances.
Heathrow has also said it aims to weaken the redundancy agreement, not pay workers for the first three days of sickness, and is refusing to implement a 4 per cent increase in January 2021, which was part of an agreement to end the previous pay dispute.
All of the cuts would be permanent and if Unite does not agree to the attack on workers’ pay, HAL is committed to sacking its entire workforce and rehiring them on poorer terms and conditions.
Unite has sought to enter into negotiations to attempt to find common ground but HAL has refused to compromise. Unite has proposed savings in security of £48 million but this is not considered sufficient.
Unite represents around 4,500 workers who are directly employed at the airport working in security, engineering, the fire service, passenger services and airside operations.
In March at the beginning of the pandemic, HAL paid its shareholders, which includes the Qatari royal family, a dividend of £100 million.
Unite will undertake a ballot of its members to get their views on the attacks on terms and conditions. If there is an appetite for strike action a formal industrial action ballot will swiftly follow.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said, “These are not well paid workers as it is but they have worked extremely hard to make Heathrow the highly profitable airport that it is today.
“To attack their pay and conditions in this way and at under the cover of the public health crisis is a disgraceful act from a business with billions in the bank.
“HAL does not need to make these cuts permanent they want to. This is about pure greed and not need,” he added.
“Unite has tried to negotiate an acceptable compromise but these have been rejected outright.
“Our members have continued to work on the frontline throughout the pandemic, potentially placing their health and that of their family at risk, to protect the interests of the airport,” King went on to say.
“As a thank you HAL wants to slash workers’ pay and conditions.
“If HAL is not prepared to return to the negotiating table and consider acceptable alternatives, then Unite will seek to resolve this attack on its members through whatever industrial, political and legal channels necessary.”
By Barckley Sumner