Balloting for action

Members of Unite employed directly by Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) including security officers, engineers, airside operatives and firefighters will begin balloting for industrial action on Thursday 8 October with the ballot closing on Thursday 5 November with strikes following soon after.

The dispute is a direct result of Heathrow Airport Limited’s (HAL) decision to issue controversial section 188 notices to “fire and rehire” staff on vastly inferior pay and conditions. Workers face losing up to £8,000 per annum, around 25 per cent of their pay.

Poverty fears

Fearful of being pushed into certain poverty if HAL’s proposals are implemented, workers are already preparing to sell their homes, move to cheaper location, into smaller accommodation or give up their cars.

Heathrow has claimed the pay cuts are a necessary consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic but Unite rejects this as a fabrication claiming that HAL’s true intention is to use the `cover of covid’ to implement long-held plans to cut staff pay to boost profits.

HAL vast salaries

The union also dismisses HAL’s cries of poverty pointing to the vast salaries paid to senior executives – its chief executive was paid £3 million in pay and pensions last year – and asking why the salary sacrifice does not start at the top of the organisation. There were 49 directors at Heathrow who earned over £21 million last year.

At the beginning of the pandemic HAL announced it had a war chest of £3.2 billion and could survive without a flight leaving for a year. HAL also paid a £100 million dividend to shareholders including the Qatari royal family.

In September the airport was catering for between 400 and 580 flights per day.  Flights include the lucrative British Airways route to JFK which is popular for pre-Christmas travel.

Permanent cuts

Unite’s conviction about HAL’s motives are borne out by the fact that the cuts are permanent rather than temporary.

The union also argues that it has assisted the airport in cutting costs by working with it earlier this year to undertake a voluntary severance scheme which saw over 800 workers leave the airport.

Unite has also attempted to discuss further proposals to save money, which would avoid cutting staff’s pay permanently, but management has rejected such proposals.

Brutal cuts

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “The opportunism of HAL’s highly-paid managers is truly shocking.  They are using the cover of Covid to impose brutal cuts on workers trying to get by in one of the most expensive cities on the planet.

“They are picking the pockets of loyal workers whose earnings are the lifeblood of the local economy yet leaving their super-salaries unscathed and shareholders’ bounties untouched.

“It is an immoral act born from boardroom greed with nothing whatsoever to do with financial need and it will be condemned as such by all right-thinking people.

 “These pay cuts are so great that workers face losing their homes with hard-working families being plunged into poverty. 

 “HAL’s directors and shareholders must look to their consciences not just their riches and step back from this now.

“Unite has made repeated attempts to work with HAL to find cost savings but rather than advance such talks they have decided it is better to fire and rehire staff on vastly inferior rates of pay.

“We urge HAL to drop these appalling fire and rehire plans and instead enter into constructive and honest negotiations with Unite.”


Notes to editors:

Heathrow urged to halt brutal plans to fire and rehire thousands in light of new jobs scheme

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.


Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.


See earlier:

Heathrow “to slash staff pay by up to a third” becoming a “low cost employer”after collapse in air travel

Heathrow staff are being asked to accept pay cuts of up to 37% and will lose their final salary pension scheme. It will also end paid breaks and allowances, worsen redundancy terms, and refuse to honour a pay rise. The airport wants to slash pay and conditions for its 7,000 workers in a bid to become a low-cost employer, according to union chiefs – an allegation denied by management. Air travel demand is currently low, (88% lower in July 2020 than in July 2019) and not expected to rise much in the short term. The aviation sector cannot afford to pay so many staff, when it has little income. Heathrow said it has been forced to take action now to protect jobs. But the union Unite (which has always been an enthusiastic backer of Heathrow and its expansion plans) has told its members that the airport is acting out of “greed, not need” and said it was using the pandemic as a smokescreen to cut pay and conditions. It added that Heathrow paid £100m in dividends in April. Unite says John Holland-Kaye told unions that he wanted to make the business a “low-cost employer” during a meeting on July 30th. Many staff working around Heathrow are not directly employed by the airport, but associated businesses. There could be over 20,000 job losses in these companies.