Unite, the principal aviation union, has accused Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to permanently cut the pay and conditions of its workforce, a move Unite has described as being about ‘greed, not need’.

Shopping list of cuts

Heathrow is proposing slashing workers’ terms and conditions including:

  • Pay cuts of up to 37 per cent
  • The closure of the final salary pension scheme
  • Removal of paid breaks and all allowances
  • Weakening the redundancy agreement
  • Not paying workers for the first three days of sickness
  • Refusal to implement a 4 per cent increase in January 2021, part of an agreement to end the previous pay dispute.

Permanent cuts

All of the cuts would be permanent and if Unite does not agree to the attack on workers’ pay, HAL is committed to sacking its entire workforce and rehiring them on poorer terms and conditions.

Unite has sought to enter into negotiations to attempt to find common ground but HAL has refused to compromise. Unite has proposed savings in security of £48 million but this is not considered sufficient.

All airport staff

Unite represents around 4,500 workers who are directly employed at the airport working in security, engineering, the fire service, passenger services and airside operations.

In March at the beginning of the pandemic, HAL paid its shareholders, which includes the Qatari royal family, a dividend of £100 million.

£3.2 billion war chest

In early May Heathrow announced that the airport had a war chest of £3.2 billion and could survive without a flight going in or out of the airport for a year.

Unite will undertake a ballot of its members to get their views on the attacks on terms and conditions. If there is an appetite for strike action a formal industrial action ballot will swiftly follow.

"Pure greed"

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “These are not well paid workers as it is but they have worked extremely hard to make Heathrow the highly profitable airport that it is today.

"To attack their pay and conditions in this way and at under the cover of the public health crisis is a disgraceful act from a business with billions in the bank.

“HAL does not need to make these cuts permanent they want to. This is about pure greed and not need.

“Unite has tried to negotiate an acceptable compromise but these have been rejected outright.

“Our members have continued to work on the frontline throughout the pandemic, potentially placing their health and that of their family at risk, to protect the interests of the airport.

“As a thank you HAL wants to slash workers’ pay and conditions.

“If HAL is not prepared to return to the negotiating table and consider acceptable alternatives, then Unite will seek to resolve this attack on its members through whatever industrial, political and legal channels necessary.”


Notes to editors:

 During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.