Heathrow Staff To Strike For 4 Days In December

Thousands of workers at London’s Heathrow Airport have announced planned strike action next month as they accuse the airport of planning to ‘fire and rehire; 4,000 on ‘vastly reduced pay.’ The job action was announced on November 16th and will take place on four separate days throughout December.

Heathrow pilots mask
London Heathrow is the UK’s largest airport. Due to the crisis, it has lost its place as the continent’s busiest hub. Photo: Getty Images

Unite union workers will strike

The Unite union announced the strike yesterday, accusing the airport of greed as it looks to reduce its expenditures by cutting wages.

Self-proclaimed as ‘UK’s principal aviation union,’ Unite consists of a wide range of workers, including firefighters, engineers, campus security, baggage operations, operational and airside workers. 85% of union members voted in favor of taking industrial action.

With many of these jobs critical and necessary to airport operations, a strike will effectively close the airport.

Four days of action have been planned. They are as follows:

  • Tuesday, December 1st: The first 24-hour strike
  • Monday, December 14th: A second 24-hour strike
  • Thursday, December 17th through Friday, December 18th: A 48-hour-long strike

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Heathrow sunrise
The job action proposed by Unite will effectively shut down Heathrow’s airport operations. Photo: Pixy.org 

“Greed not need”

Unite accuses Heathrow Airport of greed in the midst of reduced operations due to the pandemic. This is because it will go ahead with pay cuts despite repeatedly claiming that it has cash reserves to survive through June 2021, even if a single plane does not land at the airport.

The airport is trying to force workers to accept permanent pay cuts of up to £8,000 per annum, the equivalent of $10,500 (a quarter of their total pay).

In its press release, the union said, “Unite’s announcement of strike dates follows a decision by Heathrow to inflict even more misery on its workforce.”

Jetbridge heathrow
The strike will happen in three waves. Photo: Ferrovial via Flickr 

Workers presented with options

Unite also reports that its workers are being called to one-to-one meetings where they are given four options:

  • To accept the terms of the new contract with a lump sum payment,
  • A phased buy down over two years of the new contract,
  • Voluntary severance,
  • Or resignation/termination of their contract.

The workers are then given 24 hours to make a decision.

“In a further new low for HAL’s management, workers are being told that if they try to utilise their legal right to sign a new contract under protest it will be classed as a refusal and the worker will lose their job…The way in which workers are being treated is likely to greatly worsen the epidemic of mental and physical ill health which is detrimentally affecting workers at the airport.” -Unite

Simple Flying sought to contact Heathrow Airports Ltd. requesting a statement and response to Unite’s strike announcement and accusations. At the time of publication, we have not received any response from the airport.

What is your reaction to the actions of Heathrow Airport as alleged by Unite? Let us know by leaving a comment.