Friday 12 July 2019 3:14 pm

Shutdown: Heathrow Airport summer strikes threaten chaos for holidaymakers

Holidaymakers planning to use Heathrow Airport this summer could be subjected to days of chaos, after Unite trade union warned its members are planning to go on strike.

More than 4,000 workers are set to walk out on 26 and 27 July, 5 and 6 August, and 23 and 24 August. They will include security guards, engineers, and passenger service workers.

Read more: Prepare for take off: Heathrow airport expansion cleared by High Court

Unite said the move “could potentially shut down the airport”.

The move comes after workers backed strike action in eight separate strike ballots. Union members rejected an 18 month pay offer amounting to a 2.7 per cent rise. 

According to Unite, this amounts to just £3.75 extra a day for the lowest paid workers involved in the dispute.

In a statement, Heathrow showed no sign of backing down on the matter. A spokesperson said the total pay package offered is above the retail price index.

The airport designed it specifically “to boost the wages of lower paid colleagues,” they said.

“We are disappointed that Unite will be taking strike action. Following this decision, we will be implementing contingency plans that will ensure the airport remains open and operating safely throughout any coordinated action. 

“We will be working alongside our airline partners to minimise disruption caused to passengers as they look towards their well-deserved summer holidays.

“We have invited our union colleagues back to the table and urge them to continue working with us to reach an agreement.”

Heathrow said 70 per cent of front line workers will receive at least a 4.6 per cent pay increase. The remaining 30 per cent will receive at least 3.2 per cent pay increase. Both will be over an 18-month period.

City A.M. understands the 2.7 per cent figure only applies to workers earning more than £60,000 a year.

Unite said the move could shut down Britain’s biggest airport (Getty)

‘Deepening anger over pay’

Union members are fed up with disparities between workers doing same job at the airport, the union said. 

They are also angry at the pay package of Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye. Last year he received a 103.2 per cent pay increase. His basic remuneration package rose from £2.09 million in 2017 to £4.2 million in 2018.

Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King said: “There is deepening anger over pay among workers who are essential to the smooth running of Heathrow Airport.

“They are fed up of being expected to accept crumbs while the chief executive pockets an eye popping 103 per cent rise in his pay package and shareholders are handed dividends of over £2 billion in the last two years alone.

Read more: Heathrow breaks the history books with over 80m passengers flying through airport

“To add insult to injury there are widening pay disparities leading to airport security guards employed after 2014 earning up to £6,000 less than colleagues hired before that date.

“Bosses at Heathrow Airport need to get their heads out of the sand and start negotiating meaningfully over pay. Otherwise there will be significant disruption to flights to and from Heathrow and the potential closure of the airport over the summer months because of industrial action.”

Main image: Getty

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