Passengers have been warned of the potential for “travel chaos” at Heathrow airport this summer as workers across its five terminals announce a series of strikes.
The Unite union, which yesterday confirmed strikes affecting Easyjet at Stansted airport, said more than 4,000 workers including security guards, engineers, passenger service operators and drivers are set to walk out on 26 and 27 July, 5 and 6 August and 23 and 24 August.
The union claims the move “could potentially shut down the airport”.
Workers reportedly backed strike action in eight separate ballots after rejecting an 18-month pay offer amounting to 2.7 per cent. Unite says the rise would amount to an extra £3.75 per day for the lowest-paid employees involved in the dispute.
The action comes amid anger among Unite members over pay disparities between workers doing the same job at the airport, as well as an increase in Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye’s pay last year.
Unite claims Holland-Kaye’s basic remuneration package increased 103.2 per cent from £2.097 million in 2017 to £4.2 million in 2018.
Regional 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.
“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 hire before that date.
“Unite members ensured over 80 million passengers passed safely through Heathrow in the last 12 months and contributed massively to the airport’s huge profits last year. Unite and our members support Heathrow expansion and are working hard to deliver it, but we will not allow Heathrow bosses to get away with low pay.
“All our members are seeking is a pay deal that recognises their important role in keeping passengers safe and on the move, in addition to a commitment by Heathrow bosses to close pay disparities which are leading to a high turnover of staff.
“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.”
In response, a spokesperson for Heathrow airport 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 are proud of our record as a good employer and we remain committed to finding a solution. We have proposed a progressive pay package giving at least a 4.6 per cent pay rise to over 70 per cent of our frontline colleagues. The total package offered is above Retail price index - a widely used measure of inflation in the UK and is specifically designed to boost the wages of lower paid colleagues. We have invited our union colleagues back to the table and urge them to continue working with us to reach an agreement.”
Unite is also balloting two sets of workers at Gatwick airport on strike action that could begin in mid-August.