The trade union is not ruling out a worker’s strike at the airport after Heathrow “threatened” to issue section 188 notices which would mean staff being fired and re-hired on “inferior” contracts.
A strike of Heathrow workers is looking “increasingly likely” according to union bosses, who have criticised the UK’s largest airport over their proposed pay cuts for workers.
Unite the Union have been in negotiations with the airport regarding the changes to pay, allowances and employment terms for 4,000 staff directly employed by the airport, and union chiefs are urging members to reject Heathrow’s offer.
According to Unite, Heathrow has “threatened” to issue section 188 redundancy notices, which would mean workers are effectively fired and then re-hired to the same role on what Unite call “inferior” contracts. The union also claims that some staff could receive pay cuts of up to £8,000 per year under proposals that would mean employees taking a 20% reduction in salary.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King criticised Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) for using the COVID-19 pandemic to force through reductions in their employees’ terms and take-home pay, which could leave some workers struggling to make ends meet.
King said: “HAL [Heathrow Airport Limited] is cynically using Covid-19 to bounce workers into accepting drastic attacks on their pay in order to boost boardroom profits. This is pure greed, not need.
“Unite has made proposals that pay cuts should be temporary but Heathrow has rejected this out of hand. The pay cuts faced by our members mean that many could lose their homes.
“If as expected Unite members reject these huge pay cuts we will take whatever steps needed to protect our members’ pay. HAL is threatening to hire and fire the very workers who have dedicated their lives to serving passengers at the airport.
“Unite is urging HAL to withdraw these massive pay cuts and return to the negotiating table where Unite is committed to discussing fair cost reductions.
“We recognise that there challenges for this industry as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic but forcing the workforce onto the breadline is not the responsible or necessary answer to this crisis.”
Unite sent a letter to its members on 10 August accusing the airport of holding a “long-held ambition” to cut workers’ terms and conditions with a view to becoming a “low-cost employer”.
Union members previously agreed to a temporary 10% pay cut because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the proposed changes now look to be a permanent reduction in pay.
Earlier this year Heathrow offered employees a voluntary redundancy, which 800 workers accepted according to Unite.
The row over pay and employment terms comes as Heathrow Airport reported its passenger traffic for July was down 88% compared to last year. In April, the airport reported a 97% decrease in the number of passengers compared to the previous year.
Airport bosses have said the business has lost more than £1 billion due to the crisis.