"Delays, disruption and cancellations of flights inevitable" if strikes go ahead
Tomorrow (17 February 2023), more than 3,000 workers at London's Heathrow airport in the UK are to be balloted over possible strike action over the Easter holidays in a dispute over pay.
The Unite union issued a threat of “severe disruption” over the April holiday period as workers at the airport prepare to ballot for strike action over pay.
Easter Sunday falls on 9 April 2023, with UK school holidays scheduled in the week before or after. In GCC countries, the majority of schools will take a half-term break spanning the last week of March and first week of April, coinciding with the British national holidays. It's a peak time for travel for the GCC-based families choosing the UK as a destination.
In addition, this year, the four-day Eid al-Fitr holiday will take place from Thursday 20 April.
Heathrow's worker's ballot ends on 17 March 2023, meaning a walkout could coincide with the Easter getaway.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “If our members at Heathrow airport take strike action it will inevitably cause severe disruption throughout Heathrow with delays, disruption and cancellations of flights inevitable."
Workers have rejected a 10% pay increase, which Unite argues is below the real rate of inflation. The union says a security guard at the airport is paid as little as £24,000 (US$28,925) a year and staff are increasingly exposed to the UK's cost of living crisis.
King added: “This dispute is of Heathrow airport’s own making. Its employees are struggling to make ends meet. Heathrow airport has the opportunity to ease their financial burden but is refusing to step up and do the right thing. This isn’t about what our members want, this is about what they need for them and their families. This is about need not greed.”
A Heathrow spokesperson said that airport was “extremely disappointed” that Unite is tabling a formal ballot for industrial action, adding: “This step unnecessarily escalates matters and if strikes do go ahead the pay offer will be withdrawn. Since last November, discussions with our unions have resulted in an offer of a 10% increase on salary, shift pay and allowances this year on top of a four per cent increase six months ago – this is despite Heathrow remaining loss-making and with significant uncertainties facing our business, including the spectre of Covid travel restrictions which we have already seen re-introduced just this year.”
All employees were also given a one-off £2,000 (US$2,410) cost of living payment and received additional work benefits such as free hot meals over the winter.
The strike threat came as Heathrow reported handling more than 5.4 million passengers in January 2023 – the busiest start of the year since 2020.
The London hub described overall passenger satisfaction as now being at or above pre-pandemic levels with 98% of passengers waiting less than 10 minutes for security.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Heathrow is back to its best, with passenger satisfaction scores meeting or exceeding 2019 levels. We are giving a warm welcome to families over the half term getaway by delivering excellent service and bringing back the magic of travel.”