‘Heathrow Grinch CEO is stealing workers’ wages’ says airport staff striking over salary cuts

‘These cuts are all about greed and not need,’ says union

Helen Coffey
Tuesday 01 December 2020 15:09 GMT
Heathrow CEO portrayed as the Grinch by union
Heathrow CEO portrayed as the Grinch by union (Mark Thomas)

Heathrow Airport workers are striking today in a dispute over wage cuts.

Workers who are members of Unite voted for industrial action, with 84 per cent in favour of the strike, according to the union.

However, the airport maintains that nine of 16 cohorts actually voted against strike action.

In addition to three socially distanced picket lines during the strike, a van will be touring Heathrow and the surrounding area adorned with the messages: “Heathrow’s super-rich shareholders are jetting off with workers’ wages”, “Heathrow Grinch CEO is stealing workers’ wages”, and “Stop Heathrow’s billionaire-backed wage cuts”.

The dispute has arisen over Heathrow’s “fire and rehire” policies, according to Unite, which it claims will result in workers suffering permanent pay cuts of up to £8,000 per annum – 25 per cent of their take home pay.

In response, the union has called on its members who are employed by Heathrow as firefighters, engineers, campus security, baggage operations, central terminal operations, landside and airside operations, to join today’s industrial action.

A further strike is planned for 14 December, followed by a two-day stoppage on 17-18 December, set to be one of the busiest pre-Christmas travel dates.

“Workers face losing their homes and surrendering their cars due to the savage cuts being imposed on them,” said Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King.

“These cuts are all about greed and not need.

“HAL and John Holland Kaye are guilty of using the Covid pandemic as cover for forcing through long held plans to cut pay. If this was genuinely about the pandemic any cuts would have been temporary.

“Unite have tried to negotiate temporary pay cuts but Heathrow were simply not interested.”

He added that the strike was “taken as an absolutely last resort” by Unite’s members.

Heathrow has stated the airport will remain open and operating as usual throughout the strikes.

According to officials, less than 3 per cent of workers will have their pay reduced by more than 20 per cent, while under 1 per cent will have their pay reduced by 25 per cent. Employees that are negatively impacted by wage reductions will continue to be paid their existing salaries for the next two years.

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A spokesperson for Heathrow told The Independent: “It’s very disappointing that Unite has decided to take strike action during the worst crisis to hit the aviation sector. 

“Our focus has been to protect jobs – which is why we’ve offered every frontline colleague who wants one a job at a market rate salary above the London Living Wage, even despite a loss of over £1.5bn to our business so far this year. 

“We do not believe this strike action is necessary, but have activated extensive contingency plans which will keep the airport open and operating safely throughout this period.”

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