STRIKING Heathrow Airport workers are being treated with complete and utter contempt by Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL).
Thousands of lives have been put at risk! During the current strike against fire and rehire methods there are no adequate fire safety measures in place, the Unite union warned yesterday.
Yesterday was the strikers’ fourth day of action. The HAL workers are furious at the bosses’ imposition of a 25% cent pay cut amounting to £8,000 per year.
The strikes involve firefighters, engineers, campus security, baggage operations, central terminal operations and landside and airside operations personnel.
During the strike, HAL has brought in ‘contingency plans’ to keep its services running while the strike takes place. HAL have brought in temporary firefighters as a strike-breaking workforce.
Only one of the two fire stations covering the east and west side of the airport are manned during the strikes, which means that if a fire does break out the time it takes for firefighters to get to the blaze has been dangerously lengthened.
Even if these temporary fire crews do get to the fire, they have not received sufficient training. They are unable to operate the specialised equipment like the rescue stairs, the ALP (aerial ladder platform), the fire 15 tunnel vehicle and the hose layer.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: ‘Unite has deep concerns that the way that the fire service is being operated at Heathrow during the strikes does not meet key safety standards.’
HAL is so desperate to continue operations during the strike that it is putting the lives of passengers and staff at risk. HAL is desperate to keep its profits going, desperate to attempt to break the strike, desperate to impose 25% wage cuts at all costs, even if that means a serious fire breaking out as deadly as the Grenfell Tower fire.
What has come out during the inquiry into the Grenfell fire is that the cladding companies, the Kensington Council and the Tory government all put profits over people at the cost of 72 men, women and children’s lives. HAL is taking the same dangerous road, and it is the road to disaster.
Meanwhile, cargo workers at British Airways (BA) have voted 98% ‘YES’ to strike. Their pay is also being cut by 25%. They are coming out on Christmas Day and then for the next nine days.
On the picket line during Thursday’s strike, HAL worker Raj Singh said: ‘There should be united action between BA and HAL. Call the whole airport out – everybody has suffered, catering, cargo etc. The cargo boys have been hit hard. Everybody should be brought out, it would have more impact.’
The union leaders must get off their knees and coordinate the strikes to win the struggle. They must bring the whole airport out, bring the whole of Unite out. This is a life and death struggle. When pressed on bringing the BA and HAL struggles together, Wayne King, Unite regional officer, told News Line: ‘They will be but we have to follow the law. We have to give fourteen days notice.’
Not only are the union leaders completely tied to the anti-trade union laws, they are tethered to both the bosses and the government.
In fact the Unite leaders did not want a strike at all! On the day it was announced that BA cargo workers had voted 98% for strike action, Unite stated: ‘Unite has reached agreement with British Airways in all the other sections of the company where it represents workers, to mitigate its proposals to slash workers’ wages, but has been unable to do so for the cargo workers due to the continued intransigence of management.’
They see the role of the union to ‘mitigate’ job cuts and wage cuts. And when they can no longer hold the workforce back and a strike is inevitable, they have taken to policing their own strikes! At HAL, Unite reps actually policed the picket lines on behalf of the management ensuring that each picket was limited to six – enforcing the anti-union laws on behalf of the management.
And they have now gone a step further, they have set themselves up as councillors for the unemployed.
At Gatwick, where Unite has given up even the semblance of a fight, last Tuesday it launched Unite’s ‘Gatwick Community Hub,’ ‘offering free access to advice, practical support and educational opportunities’.
Unite needs a new leadership. There is not a moment to lose. These union leaders must be replaced by a leadership prepared to call a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers’ government and socialism.