Chaos Cancelled: Heathrow Airport Weekend Strike Called Off

A strike voted for by over 4,000 front-line Heathrow employees has been scrubbed. Workers at Europe’s busiest airport were expected to walk out on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th of July. But the advent of a new pay offer has caused UNITE to suspend its members’ industrial action.

Heathrow Airport marshal in action
Heathrow chaos avoided for July but strikes still scheduled for August. Photo: Heathrow.com

A series of strikes, intended to cause maximum disruption to travel plans throughout the summer, was expected in response to Heathrow Airport’s offer to its workers of an 18-month 2.7% pay rise. In a press release, Unite said this amounted to just £3.75 more a day for the lowest-paid workers.

Two more 48-hour strikes are still planned unless significant concessions are made by Heathrow. The stoppages are due to take place on August 5th and 23rd. Workers involved in the dispute include security guards, firefighters and engineers.

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Unite and Heathrow Airport are now seeking middle ground via the conciliation service ACAS. According to the BBC, employees have today been offered instead a 7.3% pay rise over two and a half years. Unite is yet to accept this latest offer.

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Travel chaos intentional

Unite was alerted several weeks ago to what Heathrow staff considered imbalance and injustice of pay scales among airport staff, many of whom were carrying out the same work. The airport’s workers were also more than a little pained by the multi-million-pound salary of airport boss John Holland-Kaye.

Heathrow Airport Executives
John Holland-Kaye’s £2 million salary a bitter pill for service workers to swallow. Photo: Heathrow.com

Early in July, staff rejected the airport’s initial offer of an average 2.7% pay rise over 18 months. They then turned to Unite to find some common ground between them and the airport’s executive. On Tuesday 22nd July, the union announced its intention to strike, and warned travelers to expect the worst.

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According to The Independent, a Unite spokesperson said, “Summer travel chaos at Heathrow airport is looming large, in a move that could potentially shut down the airport.”

Further action “on the table”

Strikes seem likely to take place in August should Unite and Heathrow not reach an agreement soon. The result of the vote on the recent pay offer will determine whether or not passengers are subjected to endless summer delays and inconveniences.

Heathrow Airport T2
2-day strikes in August, if not canceled, will plunge millions of travelers into chaos. Photo: Heathrow.com

In the event of a rejected ballot Heathrow is unlikely to want to horse trade indefinitely. Especially since, according to the BBC, the airport considers its new pitch generous and “significantly above inflation pay rises.”

A spokesman for the airport added, “We believe this offer is rewarding and importantly gives our colleagues long-term wage certainty and job security.

For now at least, an audible sigh of relief from the airport’s executive, and from passengers who intend to fly this weekend.

Heathrow told the Beeb, “We are pleased that Unite has decided to put our offer to our colleagues and to pause industrial action on 26 and 27 July. We welcome this outcome, as will thousands of passengers, whose holidays will now go to plan this weekend.”

In respect of the planned industrial action in August Heathrow says it has ways and means to ensure operational safety.

Meanwhile in the cockpit…

In a recent ballot, British Airways pilots voted unanimously to strike after being presented with an offer of a pay increase worth 11.5% over three years. The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) believes its members “deserve better”, and revealed that 93% of its members had voted in favor of industrial action.

The Independent writes that strikes by BA’s pilots could begin as early as August 13th.

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