Socialist Worker

Heathrow and BA cargo workers fight fire and rehire

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2735

Campaigning on Monday

Campaigning on Monday (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Workers at London Heathrow Airport rallied in cars on Monday against bosses’ plans to fire and rehire.

The rally came as Unite union members’ struck over Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) bosses’ attempts to force around 4,000 workers’ onto inferior contracts.

The move could cost ­workers up to £8,000 a year—a pay cut of around 25 percent.

Workers had already struck for 24 hours at the beginning of the month and planned further walkouts before Christmas.

The action involves firefighters, engineers, campus security, baggage operations, central terminal operations and landside and airside operations.

Wayne King, Unite’s regional coordinating officer, said workers had “ramped up” strikes after bosses refused to budge. “HAL has refused to withdraw its decision to brutally fire and rehire its loyal staff,” he said.

 “The airport’s success was built on its workforce, who have continued to ensure it operates throughout the pandemic, on occasion risking their health.

“HAL has repaid them by conducting the most brutal fire and rehire operation ever seen in Britain.”

King added, “HAL would rather pay millions on arranging for contingencies during the strike than agree a fair deal for its loyal workforce. It is using Covid-19 as a cover to force through long-held plans to cut workers’ pay.

“This is about greed not need.” The strikes against HAL should link up with the BA cargo workers’ fight. 


BA cargo workers are also in a battle

Cargo workers employed by British Airways (BA) at Heathrow Airport were set for nine days’ of strikes beginning on Christmas Day.

Over 840 Unite union members voted 98 percent in favour of action.

They are fighting against British Airways’ attempts to fire and rehire the workforce.

The cargo workers face pay cuts of 20-25 percent of their pay. They are also threatened with cuts in their terms and conditions.

Unite delayed announcing strike dates to allow BA “a final opportunity to come forward with a meaningful offer”.

Predictably the bosses have not done so. Given the huge reduction in passenger numbers, it is the one part of the BA business which has remained profitable throughout the pandemic.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said, “Unite has bent over backwards to give British Airways the opportunity to make a fair offer to its cargo workers.

“Now Unite has no option but to announce a series of strikes.”

Strikes were set to begin on 25 December and will end at midnight on 2 January.

It’s right to strike and there should be no acceptance of any pay cuts as there have been in other parts of aviation.

 The cargo workers are in a very strong position given the chaos at British ports which is hitting imports and exports.

They can defeat BA and demonstrate that pay cuts are not inevitable.


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