Strikes due to begin at Heathrow Airport tomorrow (2 April) have been postponed after an offer on pay and future working conditions was agreed following extensive negotiations.
Fire and rehire
The workers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s principal aviation union, employed by Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) had already taken nine days of strike action in a dispute over the company’s decision to fire and rehire its entire workforce.
A series of 41 separate targeted strikes in a 24 day period were due to begin tomorrow (Friday 2 April) which would have caused considerable disruption to the airport’s safe operation.
The offer includes the potential for pay increases of five per cent over the next two years (depending on airport traffic and inflation [CPI]), the insourcing of work which will increase earnings for some of the workforce by up to £3,000 and a commitment to review working hours of some sectors to improve work/life balance.
Unite’s members will now be balloted on the pay and conditions offer and the result will be known towards the end of April. The union is recommending the deal to its members.
'Greed not need'
HAL blamed the decision to fire and rehire its workforce on the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of air travel, but Unite has consistently argued the cuts, which are permanent, are about greed and not need. Last month HAL’s chief executive John Holland Kaye revealed it had £3.9 billion of liquidity which will see the company through until 2023.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer, Wayne King, said: “Our members deserve immense credit for standing up to a hugely wealthy company in the midst of a pandemic and saying they were not going to be treated in such a manner.
“If accepted, this offer will begin to restore the pay that members lost as a result of being forcibly fired and rehired.
“This dispute was not just important for the workers at HAL but it was significant for the entire labour movement. Employers will now think twice before trying to fire and rehire their workers in the knowledge that Unite will fight them all the way.
“The dispute, which was entirely of HAL’s making, has inevitably damaged industrial relations and the workforce’s respect for the company and its management. Such rebuilding of relationships is reliant on positive deeds by HAL and not just warm words.”
Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, said: “Fire and rehire' is ripping through our workplaces like a disease.
"Weak law lets bad bosses force through brutal changes to contracts, sometimes taking thousands of pounds off wages that families need to get by.
"It's a disgraceful practice that's outlawed in much of Europe and should be here.
"Unite is fighting for UK workers to be treated with the same decency. We won't stop until the law is changed to protect working people from attack."