Industrial action 'unnecessary' as Heathrow Airport staff threaten strike action

By Cesar Medina

24th Apr 2024 | Local News

Unite union members are planning strike action after Heathrow Airport announced it will change some services in the summer (credit: Nick Fewings/Unsplash).
Unite union members are planning strike action after Heathrow Airport announced it will change some services in the summer (credit: Nick Fewings/Unsplash).

Nearly 800 members from Unite The Union are planning to strike, potentially causing 'widespread disruption' at Heathrow but the airport calls it 'unnecessary'.

The UK's largest airport could be facing major disruption after management announced its intention to outsource hundreds of roles in a cost-cutting exercise the union says.

The announcement of strikes on 7 May until 13 May comes as Unite members at AFS Ltd, an airline refuelling company, are also taking part in industrial action on 4, 5 and 6 May.

These fresh strikes from Unite are planned from Tuesday, 7 May until 11:59pm on Monday 13 May.

The main concern from Unite members working in Heathrow is changes to some services at the airport which are being outsourced to third party companies by 1 June.

Unite says Heathrow Airport has ignored existing consultation procedures and has announced that workers in passenger services (who assist travellers to catch connecting flights), trolley operations, and campus security (the security guards who are responsible for all workers at Heathrow and vehicles being checked before entering Heathrow), will be outsourced.

Other concerns from the union include proposed changes to the identity of its members' employer and refusal by Heathrow Airport to agree to multilateral bargaining for groups of workers at the airport.

Multilateral bargaining means more than two groups or parties involved in negotiation processes.

Union members will be joined by Firefighters and airside operations from Heathrow Airport too as they support the idea of a multilateral collective bargaining agreement.

Unite 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.

"Unite is fully focussed on defending its members jobs, pay and conditions and our members at Heathrow will receive the union's unrelenting support during this dispute."

Some Heathrow Airport staff will be striking next month (credit: Heathrow Airport).

However, Heathrow Airport reassures flyers that the planned strikes will not affect services and that it has 'extensive contingency plans' in place.

There will also be no job losses according to Heathrow and the changes brings all passenger-facing security in-house while formally transferring a small trolly operations team and a small passenger logistics team set-up during COVID to its third party suppliers already working at Heathrow.

Unite 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 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."

Despite the union claiming the airport has failed to engage in negotiations, Heathrow Airport says it is working with Unite to agree the detailed options for reorganising colleague shifts.

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."

Heathrow has already announced the companies it has selected to takeover various services:

·      Passenger Services – Trans Dev

·      Trolley Operations – Smarte Carte

·      Campus Security – ICTS. 

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