Unite furious about Heathrow drastic cuts in workers’ pay and conditions, and threat of sackings
Unite, the principal union for aviation workers, has accused Heathrow of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to permanently cut the pay and conditions of its workforce, a move Unite has described as being about ‘greed, not need’. The airport is proposing to cut workers’ terms and conditions including: Pay cuts of up to 37%; the closure of the final salary pension scheme; removal of paid breaks and all allowances; weakening the redundancy agreement, and not paying workers for the first 3 days of sickness. Unite says all the cuts would be permanent, and if Unite does not agree to them, Heathrow will sack its entire workforce and rehire them on poorer terms and conditions. Unite represents around 4,500 workers who are directly employed at the airport. Heathrow will not compromise with Unite. In the meantime, Heathrow paid its shareholders a dividend of £100 million this year. And John Holland-Kaye claims it has a £3.2 billion “war chest” and that it could survive till the end of 2020, even with almost no flights. So it is particularly galling that it is needing to reduce its wage bill by so much. Many of the workers have kept working, during Covid, to help the airport stay open. Unite will fight using whatever industrial, political and legal channels are necessary.
Heathrow Airport accused of ‘sheer greed’ in attack on workers’ pay and conditions
22nd June 2020 (Unite press release)
Unite, the principal aviation union, has accused Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to permanently cut the pay and conditions of its workforce, a move Unite has described as being about ‘greed, not need’.
Shopping list of cuts
Heathrow is proposing slashing workers’ terms and conditions including:
- Pay cuts of up to 37 per cent
- The closure of the final salary pension scheme
- Removal of paid breaks and all allowances
- Weakening the redundancy agreement
- Not paying workers for the first three days of sickness
- Refusal to implement a 4 per cent increase in January 2021, part of an agreement to end the previous pay dispute.
All of the cuts would be permanent and if Unite does not agree to the attack on workers’ pay, HAL is committed to sacking its entire workforce and rehiring them on poorer terms and conditions.
Unite has sought to enter into negotiations to attempt to find common ground but HAL has refused to compromise. Unite has proposed savings in security of £48 million but this is not considered sufficient.
All airport staff
Unite represents around 4,500 workers who are directly employed at the airport working in security, engineering, the fire service, passenger services and airside operations.
In March at the beginning of the pandemic, HAL paid its shareholders, which includes the Qatari royal family, a dividend of £100 million.
£3.2 billion war chest
In early May Heathrow announced that the airport had a war chest of £3.2 billion and could survive without a flight going in or out of the airport for a year.
Unite will undertake a ballot of its members to get their views on the attacks on terms and conditions. If there is an appetite for strike action a formal industrial action ballot will swiftly follow.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “These are not well paid workers as it is but they have worked extremely hard to make Heathrow the highly profitable airport that it is today.
“To attack their pay and conditions in this way and at under the cover of the public health crisis is a disgraceful act from a business with billions in the bank.
“HAL does not need to make these cuts permanent they want to. This is about pure greed and not need.
“Unite has tried to negotiate an acceptable compromise but these have been rejected outright.
“Our members have continued to work on the frontline throughout the pandemic, potentially placing their health and that of their family at risk, to protect the interests of the airport.
“As a thank you HAL wants to slash workers’ pay and conditions.
“If HAL is not prepared to return to the negotiating table and consider acceptable alternatives, then Unite will seek to resolve this attack on its members through whatever industrial, political and legal channels necessary.”
Notes to editors:
During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.
MPs unimpressed with this sort of behaviour by British Airways
The Commons Transport Select Committee were very critical of British Airways for its appalling treatment of staff, sacking them and making them reapply for jobs on lower pay and worse conditions.
13th June 2020
Heathrow launches voluntary severance scheme to staff on more generous earlier contracts – and can’t rule out further job cuts
Heathrow has about 7,000 directly employed staff, and has experienced a reduction in flights of around 97% due to Covid. It has It has already cut a third of its managerial roles – people on relatively high pay. It is now trying to encourage staff who were employed before 2014 to offer to take voluntary severance (which is different to redundancy). Any payments over £30,000 are subject to tax. If someone is redunded, that post cannot be legally filled for several months. With severance, the job can then be refilled. Heathrow is trying to get rid of those on more generous contracts, with better terms and conditions, and employ staff on worse contracts. That is what British Airways has done, to the fury of the unions. The Unite union is a staunch supporter of Heathrow, and seems to have agreed to go along with Heathrow’s severance offers. It is likely there will also be many redundancies, as air travel demand is unlikely to pick up to earlier levels for several years. A total of 76,000 people are employed across 400 different companies at Heathrow. About 25,000 of those jobs might be at risk.
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