Heathrow Workers Reject Pay Offer, Planned Strike to go Ahead

Heathrow Workers Reject Pay Offer, Planned Strike to go Ahead

Ground-handlers employed by Menzies Aviation at the Heathrow airport have rejected a pay rise offer from the company. About 400 members belonging to the Unite union of airport workers will conduct 72-hour strikes from December 16-18 and 29 to January 1.

A 72-hour strike action planned by ground handlers at London’s Heathrow airport will go ahead after workers rejected a pay rise offer. 350 airport ground-handlers who are members of the ‘Unite’ union and employed by private contractor Menzies Aviation will stage a walkout that will begin at 4:00 am on December 16. This will be followed by another 72-hour strike that will begin on December 29 and end at 4:00 am on January 1.

Officials at the UK’s busiest airport have warned passengers travelling from London between December 16 and 18 to expect “disruption, delays and potential cancellations” due to the strike called on by the ground handlers. Unite says 10 airlines across Heathrow Terminals 2, 3 and 4 will be affected by the industrial action: Aer Lingus, Air Canada, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Egypt Air, Finnair, Lufthansa, Qantas, Swiss and TAP Portugal.

Menzies’ latest pay offer included a 10.5% pay rise with 4% backdated to May of this year and a further 6.5% that will be applicable from January 1. However, Unit rejected this offer demanding an increase of 13% for this year alone to keep in line with the rising cost of living that is affecting low-income households across the nation.

Heathrow Workers Reject Pay Offer, Planned Strike to go Ahead

“This is a classic case of an employer that can fully afford to pay workers a fair pay increase but has chosen not to. Menzies needs to stop making excuses and make a pay offer that meets our members’ expectations,” said Sharon Graham, General Secretary of Unit.

Unite says the Heathrow contractor offered a fair pay rise to other groups of workers but not to its ground-handlers. A similar strike organised by the union took place last month which caused considerable disruptions at the airport. However officials dusted off the union’s claims saying that apart from a few delayed departures all operations were smooth sailing. Friday’s strike will coincide with the busiest weekend of the year, that is only a week ahead of Christmas.

“We are well prepared for further industrial action and are working closely with key partners to put in place robust contingency plans,” said Miguel Gomez Sjunneson, Menzies Aviation’s executive VP for Europe.

The VP added that the previous strike which involved 250 out of 1,500 ground handlers employed by the company at Heathrow had very minimal impact on its operations, as 97% of the flights departed on time with no cancellations. The airport spokesperson has asked other contractors to plan ahead of the protest and that the management is willing to support them to “minimise the impact on passengers should the strike go ahead.”

Heathrow has stated that most passengers are travelling on airlines with other ground-handlers and should not experience any trouble. Unite’s post-Christmas strike will coincide with industrial action by the Border Force staff, which is most likely to only affect flights to Heathrow. While it may cause delays and longer waiting lines at immigration for travellers returning from holidays, airlines are expecting their operations to go ahead without any widespread disruption.

The ground-handlers and Border Forces’ strike adds to the wave of industrial action taking place across the country in various sectors. This week will also see nurses, railway operators and postal workers organise strikes due to dispute over wages.

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