Heathrow Airport braced for fresh strikes in ‘bitter’ fire and rehire dispute
- Friday 22 January 2021
Unite members at Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) will undertake renewed strike action next month in the increasingly bitter dispute over the company’s decision to fire and rehire its entire workforce, which is forcing many workers into poverty.
Fresh strike action
The workforce took four days of strike action last December and have now announced that they will take strike action on Friday 5 February.
Different groups of workers will be striking at different times on this date. Unite members recorded an 84 per cent yes vote for strike action and the targeted action will involve: firefighters, engineers, campus security, baggage operations, central terminal operations, landside and airside operations.
Fire and rehire
The dispute is a result of HAL firing and rehiring its entire 4,000 strong workforce on vastly inferior contracts, resulting in workers facing pay cuts of up to 25 per cent (£8,000 per annum).
Since the industrial action began, Unite has repeatedly raised concerns about HAL’s contingency plans during industrial action and the potential risk to passengers and everyone that works at Heathrow. The union believes that HAL has failed to create a safe working environment but such concerns have been summarily dismissed by the company. In particular, Unite has raised serious concerns about the adequacy of firefighter cover at the airport.
Dispute not going away
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “HAL needs to understand that this dispute is not going away.
“Our members – who are being forced to move home, downsize their properties or give up their cars because of the cuts imposed on them by Heathrow airport – are determined to keep fighting.
"Our members have worked throughout the pandemic. Even now as infection rates continue to climb, they are going into work, despite putting themselves and their families at risk of infection. That any employer can believe it is ok to permanently cut the pay of key workers at this time is unimaginable.
“The cuts imposed by HAL are all about greed and not need. If this was genuinely about making savings because of the pandemic these pay cuts would have been temporary and not permanent.
“The management at the airport are guilty of using the Covid-19 pandemic to force through long-held plans to cut workers’ pay.”
Due to the very high levels of Covid-19 in the London area and the increased risk of transmission of the new variant, Unite will not be operating picket lines during this strike.
Notes to editors:
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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.