Reports suggest that Heathrow Airport informed unions this afternoon that it was issuing a formal Section 188 notice to trigger the 45-day consultation period before compulsory redundancies.
The biggest airport in the UK could axe 25% of frontline staff, as months of talks with trade unions regarding staff pay and employment terms have failed to lead to an agreement.
There are reports this afternoon that Heathrow Airport has informed union officials today (Wednesday 2 September) that a formal Section 188 notice has been issued, which triggers a 45-day consultation period that could lead to compulsory job losses.
It is thought that as many as 4,700 of Heathrow’s engineers, airside operations and security employees will be included in the consultation process, with around a quarter of those jobs being lost without a deal being reached that involves significant pay cuts and changes to employee benefits such as reduced pension contributions.
One Heathrow insider is reported as telling Sky News that the airport had agreed to avoid compulsory redundancies if trade unions such as Unite and PCS agreed to the revised terms for staff. Heathrow proposed the new terms last month and the deadline to agree was the end of August.
“It is in Heathrow bosses’ power to settle this dispute. We would urge them to work with us to do so” – Wayne King
— Unite the union: join a union (@unitetheunion) August 2, 2019
There is still the possibility of a deal being reached during the 45-day consultation period, but if not around 1,200 jobs at Heathrow could be at risk.
- Read more: Unite fears many Heathrow staff could be fired and re-hired on lesser terms with big pay cuts
As part of the terms thought to have been proposed to unions, around 2,000 current Heathrow staff members would either see their pay increased or remain unchanged. The airport also insists that workers are being offered “generous” voluntary redundancy packages.
The final number of job losses will not be clear until later in the autumn, but some sources have suggested today that they could be lower than the 1,200 currently being quoted by many in the media.
This latest development has been expected for several months, as one of the world’s busiest airports has struggled with the significant impact of coronavirus that is affecting the travel industry.
Just last week, Gatwick Airport announced it would cut 600 jobs as part of a “restructuring” after reporting a half-year loss of £344m.
Passenger numbers at Heathrow have collapsed over the past six months, with July’s traffic down 95% compared to last year. On Tuesday this week, just 24,000 people travelled through the airport – compared to the average daily summer figure of 250,000.
As a result, over 4,000 Heathrow staff have been furloughed under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is due to end on 31 October.
In a statement, a Heathrow spokesperson said: “Discussions with our unions have taken place over four months and our final offer is informed by feedback we have received from them.
“But with air travel showing little sign of recovery, these discussions cannot go on indefinitely and we must act now to prevent our situation from worsening.
“We have now started a period of formal consultation with our unions on our offer, which still guarantees a job at the airport for anyone who wishes to stay with our business.”