Employee Relations

Heathrow’s Unite members to strike over ‘fire and rehire’ dispute

The workforce had previously taken four days of strike action last December and have now announced that different groups of workers will be striking at different times on the selected date

Unite members at Heathrow Airport have announced they will take strike action on Friday 5 February 2021 after disputing the company’s decision to fire and rehire its entire workforce.

The workforce had previously taken four days of strike action last December and have now announced that different groups of workers will be striking at different times on the selected date.

Unite members recorded an 84% “yes vote for strike action” which will involve firefighters, engineers, campus security, baggage operations, central terminal operations, landside and airside operations.

The dispute comes from the airport’s decision to fire and rehire its entire 4,000 strong workforce on “vastly inferior” contracts, resulting in workers facing pay cuts of up to 25% (£8,000 per annum).

The union said it believes that the company has “failed to create a safe working environment”. In particular, Unite has raised “serious concerns” about the adequacy of firefighter cover at the airport.

Wayne King, regional coordinating officer for Unite, said: “Heathrow Airport 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.”

He added: “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 reported they will not be operating picket lines during this strike.

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