Heathrow strikes go ahead as last-ditch talks fail
- Thursday 30 March 2023
Ten days of strikes involving over 1,400 security officers at Heathrow Airport will go ahead as planned from tomorrow (Friday 31 March) as last-ditch talks held today (Thursday) failed to resolve the current pay dispute. (See Notes to Editors below).
The talks broke down because Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) failed to substantially improve its pay offer and was only prepared to offer a lump sum payment as an addition to the current offer.
This is in stark contrast to the remuneration of the Chief Executive, John Holland-Kaye. The latest HAL accounts show that between 2020 and 2021 his pay soared from £800,000 to £1.5 million pa - up an astonishing 88 per cent. The current average salary of a Heathrow security guard, working endless shifts, is £30,000. This is made up of a basic £26,000, after three years experience, with a £4,000 shift allowance. That’s down 24 per cent in real terms since 2017.
Between 2017 and 2019 HAL paid out £2.1 billion in dividends to shareholders in its holding company, FGP Topco. FGP Topco is privately owned, with the top investors being the Spanish infrastructure company, Ferrovial (25 per cent of the shares), and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (20 per cent).
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Heathrow can afford to pay a decent pay rise to its workers. This is a wealthy company which is about to return to bumper profits. In recent years it’s approved an astronomical rise in salary for its CEO and paid out dividends to shareholders worth billions. Yet somehow Heathrow executives seem to think it’s acceptable to offer what amounts to a real terms pay cut to its security guards and ground staff who are already on poverty pay.
"Unite has a laser like focus on our members jobs, pay and conditions, the workforce at Heathrow Airport will receive the union’s unswerving support in this fight for a decent deal.”
Fire and rehire
At the height of the pandemic in 2020 HAL fired and rehired its entire workforce, resulting in most workers suffering serious pay cuts.
At the time, Unite predicted that this would result in a huge staffing crisis for the company post-pandemic and that is what has come to pass. Heathrow is now using thousands of temporary staff to plug gaps in its operations.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “Heathrow Airport has thrown away the opportunity to avoid strikes. Unite went into today’s meeting looking for an offer our members could accept. Unfortunately it seems HAL went in with no intention of avoiding industrial action.”
“The strike action will undoubtedly result in severe delays and disruption to passengers across the airport but this dispute is a direct result of Heathrow Airport’s stubborn refusal to pay its workers fairly”
The strikes involves security officers at Terminal Five, which is used exclusively by British Airways, and Campus security guards, who are responsible for checking all cargo that enters the airport. Huge disruption of all Heathrow flights will result.
Notes to Editors:
Picket lines will be in place across the Heathrow campus throughout the
10 days of continuous strike action from Friday 31 March ending on Easter Sunday April 9.
The principal picket line will be:
Where: The roundabout on Nene Road, TW6 2AU
When: 08:00 and 20:00
Last-ditch talks on Heathrow pay strikes could avert flight chaos during the Easter holidays
For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.
Email: [email protected]
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.