Passengers face ‘major disruption’ as hundreds of Heathrow Airport staff announce week-long strike

The UK’s busiest airport has stressed it has robust contingency measures in place to deal with industrial action

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 24 April 2024 07:29 BST
Related video: Plane sways as it lands in 60mph winds at Heathrow airport

Passengers at Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport, face “major disruption” as 800 members of the Unite union prepare to walk out for a week.

Unite is calling out firefighters and staff in airside operations, passenger services, trolley operations and campus security from Tuesday 7 May to Monday 13 May.

The dispute is over plans for outsourcing what the union calls “hundreds of roles” in an exercise designed to save £40m.

Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer, Wayne King, said: “Strike action will inevitably cause widespread disruption across the airport, leading to delays and disruption. However, this is a dispute that HAL [Heathrow Airport Ltd] has brought on itself.

“Unite is committed to ending the race to the bottom that HAL appears to be set on and that is best achieved through introducing multilateral collective bargaining on pay and conditions for groups of workers at Heathrow regardless of their employer.”

The union says the airport plans to outsource work in passenger services (assisting travellers to catch connecting flights), trolley operations, and campus security (the security guards check vehicles and staff) by 1 June.

Firefighters and airside operations staff plan to walk out in support, says the union, because they fear they “may be next in line”.

Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Heathrow airport’s actions are deplorable. It is raking in massive profits for the bosses while trying to squeeze every last penny out of its workforce.”

The airport says it has robust contingency plans in place for each of these individual areas and anticipates no impact on passenger journeys.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We are reorganising our operations to deliver better results for our customers. There are no job losses as a result of these changes, and we continue to discuss with Unite the implementation of these changes for the small number of colleagues impacted.

“Unite’s threats of potential industrial action are unnecessary, and customers can be reassured that we will keep the airport operating smoothly just like we have in the past.”

In a separate dispute, Unite members at the airline refuelling firm AFS are planning to strike on 4, 5 and 6 May.

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