Today (October 30) the streets around Heathrow saw an ad van carrying Unite’s clear message to Heathrow Airport CEO, John Holland-Kaye, to stop cutting staff’s wages and rewarding himself and the board with eye-wateringly large bonuses.
In September, Heathrow Airports Ltd (HAL) issued a section 188 notice, beginning a process which could mean over 4,000 workers directly employed by the airport being fired and then rehired on vastly inferior contracts.
The workers, including security officers, engineers and firefighters, face losing over £8,000 per annum and up to 24 per cent of their incomes. Many workers fear that they will be forced to sell their homes and cars or move to cheaper areas.
HAL, which boasted that it had the resources to make it through the pandemic and whose chief executive was paid £2.6m in pay and pensions last year, says that the cuts to the wages of workers will be of a permanent rather than a temporary nature.
Unite has put forward its own proposals of how money can be saved at the airport without the need for swingeing permanent cuts to workers’ pay.
But today was all about the people of Heathrow seeing exactly what was happening to their friends and neighbours who work for the airport.
“We are launching our ad van campaign that will be touring the Heathrow area driving home the message to the public that wages of airport workers sustain and support the local economy,” explained Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King.
“If they have less to spend this will have an adverse impact from Uxbridge, the prime minister’s constituency, to Staines; from Hounslow to Slough,” he added.
And it’s very true – if workers have less money the whole local economy will suffer.
“Restaurants, pubs, cafes, newsagents, shoe repairers, dry cleaners and florists will be among the businesses that will be hit as there are fewer pounds in wallets and purses,” said King.
He continued, “We are calling on Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye to use HAL’s cash reserves’ mountain to protect airport jobs, rather than focus exclusively on generous dividend pay-outs to shareholders. We strongly believe that social responsibility should complement the demands of the balance sheet.
“To chart a constructive way forward, Unite remains open for talks with HAL at any time, any place, including discussions on how the chancellor’s new job support scheme (JSS) can be utilised to safeguard the jobs at Heathrow.
“Unite believes that it has public opinion firmly on its side and HAL’s hardline stance will cause it long-term reputational damage,” he concluded.
And the ad van hasn’t gone unnoticed. Local MP John McDonnell saw the van and tweeted, “Heathrow Airport is using the pandemic as the excuse to cut the wages of my constituents by massive amounts permanently. This ad van is touring my constituency to put the wage cuts in the context of how much the CE and directors were paid this year.”
This video uses testimony from workers who for fear of reprisals have asked for their voices to be disguised.
By Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite