Socialist Worker

Fightback can ground major attacks at Heathrow airport

Issue No. 2710

Heathrow airport is hugely profitable

Heathrow airport is hugely profitable (Pic: Charles Haynes on Flickr)


A consultative ballot on strikes is coming after a brutal assault on workers’ jobs and conditions from Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL).

The workers’ Unite union said the employer is “using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to permanently cut the pay and conditions of its workforce”. It said the move was about “greed, not need”.

The hit list of attacks includes:

  • Pay cuts of up to 37 percent
  • 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 percent increase in January 2021. This was part of an agreement to end a 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 put forward plans for savings in security of £48 million, but this is not considered sufficient.

Bosses

There is plenty of money for the bosses and those they favour.

In March at the beginning of the pandemic, HAL paid its shareholders, which includes the Qatari royal family, a dividend of £100 million.

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 said it will hold a ballot of its members to get their views on the attacks on terms and conditions.

The union added that “If there is an appetite for strike action a formal industrial action ballot will swiftly follow.”

That can’t come soon enough.

Huge attacks on jobs and conditions are taking place across the aviation and airline industry.

They won’t be halted by desperate appeals to supposed “national unity” or “partnership”.

Instead serious struggle is needed.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said, “These are not well paid workers as it is.

“To attack their pay and conditions in this way and under the cover of the public health crisis is a disgraceful act from a business with billions in the bank.”


Menzies also launches assaults

Aviation company Menzies is threatening to make mass redundancies at Heathrow Airport.

The company employs over 2,500 workers at the airport. They do jobs such as baggage handling, check-in and front of house roles.

It has written to its workforce warning they are at risk of redundancy.

Bosses did not notify Unite, the recognised union, that they were seeking to make redundancies, or inform the union how many jobs would be lost.

This is a basic legal requirement.

Menzies provides services to airlines including Air Canada, Lufthansa, Lot, Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, Aer Lingus and Quantas.

Menzies is also using the furlough scheme to pay workers who have been made redundant but are working their notice.

Workers employed on a refuelling contract were made redundant while furloughed. But Menzies is refusing to pay their notice pay upfront.

Instead the workers will be paid for a further 12 weeks—their notice pay period—by the government’s Job Retention Scheme.

Only then will they receive their redundancy pay, and so they cannot seek alternative employment until that time.

Unite regional officer Kevin Hall said, “Menzies have got to start playing by the rules or Unite will take legal or industrial action to ensure they do.”


Strike ballot at Heathrow Express

Workers on the Heathrow Express line are balloting for strikes over bosses’ plans to axe their jobs.

RMT union members are preparing to fight because workers currently furloughed have been threatened with being made unemployed.

Bosses have threatened to cut 123 Mobile Sales Advisor and Customer Concierge roles and reorganise grades.

The firm said it was axing the jobs to “reduce costs throughout the business in order to keep it viable and to reduce the need to make any compulsory redundancies”.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said the union was appalled that “management have chosen to put a gun to our members’ heads demanding they accept a total reorganisation”.

He said the attacks include “moving half the workforce onto part-time contracts, or facing unemployment”.

“It is an abuse of the government’s furlough scheme to take taxpayer money while cooking up plans for jobs carnage,” he said.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.