Top international airlines, including American Airlines, face chaos to their freight operations at Heathrow Airport, if 200 cargo handlers and truckers vote for strike action in a pay dispute.

Unite the union is holding a strike ballot for its members employed by Worldwide Flight Services (WFS) from Wednesday 13 April, after the company imposed a pay freeze for the pay year starting January 2021. The ballot closes on Wednesday 27 April.

Unite is calling on WFS to match the pay awards of competitors, such as dnata and Menzies, who had given pay rises for 2021 ranging from seven to 10 per cent and/or £3,000 one-off payments in recognition of the galloping cost of living crisis engulfing UK households.

Unite members ‘build’ the freight cargos and then truck them to points at the airport for loading onto airlines such as Air China, American Airlines, Etihad, Singapore and Thai.  They also deal with unloaded cargo from passenger flights, so a strike could cause havoc not just to freight movements, but to passengers boarding and leaving aircraft.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This WFS pay freeze is a pay cut at a time of galloping inflation.  It’s completely unacceptable. The penny has to drop with WFS that low pay has seen aviation workers vote with their feet and chaos at airports.

“With bills going through the roof, WFS needs to do as competitors are doing, recognise that workers’ pay must keep pace and return to the negotiating table with a realistic offer.

“Our members at WFS have the full support of Unite in any industrial action they wish to take.”

Unite regional officer Kevin Hall said: “WFS’s rivals have recognised the current economic situation and now WFS needs to enter into meaningful negotiations. Any industrial action will cause chaos to the freight operations of WFS’ clients, which include a number of prestige international airlines, such as American Airlines.”

Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers' living standards.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

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Unite is the leading union in the UK and Ireland, dedicated to defending and improving members' jobs, pay and conditions. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.