Workers at Heathrow renew strikes

Heathrow Airport braced for a month of disruption

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Workers employed by Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) will renew strike action tomorrow (February 5) in a bitter dispute, over the company’s decision to fire and rehire its entire workforce on vastly inferior wages and conditions.

The strike this Friday is part of at least a month of disruption at the airport. Unite, which represents the workers at HAL, has already announced strikes for February 9, 13, 16 and 18. It is expected that further industrial action will be announced in the future.

Unite previously took four days of strike action in December as part of the dispute.

The strike is a direct result of HAL’s decision to brutally fire and rehire its workforce, with workers experiencing permanent pay cuts of up to 25 per cent, or £8,000 a year.

The cuts have resulted in HAL overnight going from offering the best pay and conditions for workers in airports, to being among the worst payers. Unite has accused HAL of cynically using the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic to force through long-held plans to cut pay.

Unite is taking a flexible approach to the strike aaction with different groups of workers embarking on strike action at different times.

The targeted strike action will involve: firefighters, engineers, campus security, baggage operations, central terminal operations, landside and airside operations.

Rather than seek a negotiated settlement to the dispute, HAL is instead relying on a motley collection of sub-contractors, agency workers and casual staff to provide a ‘contingency service’, when workers are on strike. Unite, which also represents thousands of workers who work at Heathrow and are not part of the dispute, has raised serious safety concerns during the previous industrial action, but HAL has dismissed the safety concerns without conducting proper investigations.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said, “HAL has brutally stripped workers of their pay and left many of them unable to make ends meet.

“With workers being forced to downsize and give up their cars it is not surprising that they are determined to step up industrial action,” he added.

“HAL’s motives from the outset have been all about greed and not about need. If this was linked to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on aviation, then cuts to pay would be temporary and not permanent.”

By Barckley Sumner

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