British Airways and Heathrow airlines facing half term chaos as refuellers and ground handlers announce strike action
- Sunday 30 January 2022
Passengers booked on half-term breaks and skiing trips from Heathrow are set for severe delays, as a result of ground handling and refuelling company Menzies Aviation, refusing to even enter into pay negotiations, after previously firing and rehiring 810 of its workforce.
Four hundred workers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, will take three days of strike action beginning on Friday 11 February beginning at 00:01hrs and finishing at 23:59 on Sunday 13th February 2020
Fire and rehire
Tensions have been greatly heightened as a result of Menzies firing and rehiring hundreds of its workers at the peak of the pandemic, which resulted in them experiencing huge pays cuts. In the most extreme cases workers saw pay rates fall by £9,000 a year.
To add insult to injury, Menzies has refused to enter into meaningful negotiations for outstanding pay increases for both 2020 and 2021. This is in sharp contrast to Menzies’ competitors including Swissport, Cobalt, GH London and dnata, who have agreed pay increases for their workers.
Appalling treatment of workers
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Menzies cynically used the cover of the pandemic to fire and rehire its workers to boost long-term profits and it is now refusing to even consider a pay rise. Given the appalling treatment Menzies workers have received from their employer it is little surprise that they felt they had no option but to take strike action.
“Bad employers need to be aware that Unite is wholly committed to defending and protecting the pay and conditions of its members. Unite’s members at Menzies will receive the union’s full and complete support until this dispute is resolved.”
The Menzies workers are split between two main functions. One group provides ground handling and passenger services for a host of airlines including: American, Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss, China airlines, Air Canada, Germanwings, Croatian, Icelandair, Finnair, Aer Lingus, Egyptair, Qantas and Loganair.
The other group is responsible for refuelling for British Airways and a joint venture operation with Shell/Exxon and Mobil.
The strikes will inevitably cause disruption and delays, with a domino effect expected to occur with the disruption to the airport increasing the longer the strikes continue.
Strike action last resort
Unite regional officer Kevin Hall said: “The strike action will inevitably cause severe disruption and delays throughout Heathrow but it is taken as a last resort and is entirely of Menzies’ own making.
“Even at this late stage, Menzies could avoid causing huge disruption at Heathrow next month by making a decent pay offer to its workers and returning to the negotiating table.”
Despite the pandemic, which has greatly affected aviation, Menzies has remained profitable.
The workers at Menzies believe that they are being treated as second class citizens within their own company as workers in Menzies’ cargo division secured a seven per cent pay increase in 2021.
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]
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Instagram: unitetheunion Web: unitetheunion.org
Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.