‘Heathrow Is Facing Complete Shutdown’ Says Unite

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Heathrow Airport catering workers fighting against airline caterer Alpha’s plans to cut their work time from 40 to 20 hours a week

‘ONE of the world’s largest airports is facing complete shutdown,’ the Unite union has warned, ‘as members of Unite prepare to ballot for strike action over the company’s attempts to slash the pay of 4,000 workers by up to £8,000’.

It went on to stress: ‘Members of Unite employed directly by Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) – including security officers, engineers, airside operatives and firefighters – will begin balloting for industrial action on Thursday 8 October, with the ballot closing on Thursday 5 November with strikes following soon after.
‘The dispute is a direct result of Heathrow Airport Limited’s (HAL) decision to issue controversial section 188 notices to “fire and rehire” staff on vastly inferior pay and conditions. Workers face losing up to £8,000 per annum, around 25 per cent of their pay.’
The statement emphasised: ‘Fearful of being pushed into certain poverty if HAL’s proposals are implemented, workers are already preparing to sell their homes, move to cheaper location, into smaller accommodation or give up their cars.
‘Heathrow has claimed the pay cuts are a necessary consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic but Unite rejects this as a fabrication claiming that HAL’s true intention is to use the “cover of Covid” to implement long-held plans to cut staff pay to boost profits.’
‘The union also dismisses HAL’s cries of poverty, pointing to the vast salaries paid to senior executives – its chief executive was paid £3 million in pay and pensions last year – and asking why the salary sacrifice does not start at the top of the organisation. There were 49 directors at Heathrow who earned over £21 million last year.
‘At the beginning of the pandemic HAL announced it had a war chest of £3.2 billion, and could survive without a flight leaving for a year. HAL also paid a £100 million dividend to shareholders, including the Qatari royal family.
‘In September, the airport was catering for between 400 and 580 flights per day.  Flights include the lucrative British Airways route to JFK which is popular for pre-Christmas travel.
‘Unite’s conviction about HAL’s motives are borne out by the fact that the cuts are permanent rather than temporary. The union also argues that it has assisted the airport in cutting costs by working with it earlier this year to undertake a voluntary severance scheme which saw over 800 workers leave the airport.
‘Unite has also attempted to discuss further proposals to save money, which would avoid cutting staff’s pay permanently, but management has rejected such proposals.’
Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King added: ‘The opportunism of HAL’s highly-paid managers is truly shocking.  They are using the cover of Covid to impose brutal cuts on workers trying to get by in one of the most expensive cities on the planet.
‘They are picking the pockets of loyal workers whose earnings are the lifeblood of the local economy, yet leaving their super-salaries unscathed and shareholders’ bounties untouched.
‘It is an immoral act born from boardroom greed with nothing whatsoever to do with financial need, and it will be condemned as such by all right-thinking people. These pay cuts are so great that workers face losing their homes with hard-working families being plunged into poverty.
‘HAL’s directors and shareholders must look to their consciences, not just their riches, and step back from this now. Unite has made repeated attempts to work with HAL to find cost savings, but rather than advance such talks they have decided it is better to fire and rehire staff on vastly inferior rates of pay.
‘We urge HAL to drop these appalling fire and rehire plans, and instead enter into constructive and honest negotiations with Unite.’

  • Unite has slammed Scotland’s Secretary of State, as well as bus and coach firm Alexander Dennis, for ‘planning a further jobs blow to workers – as it cuts its Scottish operations by a third.

‘Unite Scotland on 2nd October angrily reacted to the news that Alexander Dennis (ADL), the UK’s largest bus and coach builder, is planning to axe a further 70 jobs in addition to the 200 job cuts previously announced at its Falkirk base in Scotland,’ it warned.
Unite has warned that ‘nearly 300 jobs will now go out of 850 workers, after the company responded by announcing further job losses following the union’s insistence that the company maximises its efforts to save jobs and to support workers being made redundant.
‘The trade union which represents the majority of the workforce has also severely criticised Alistair Jack MP for the lack of any response to a letter dated 10 September from Unite, which invited the Secretary of State for Scotland to meet with workplace representatives to discuss the current situation facing ADL in Scotland, and what levels of support could be provided for the low-emissions bus industry.
‘In a normal year, about 25% of ADL’s order book are made up of orders from within Scotland and much of the rest is from the UK.
‘Unite Scotland is demanding a number of strategic interventions by government at a UK and Scottish level to support the green manufacturing industry.

  • The UK government immediately bringing forward the promised funding for 4,000 low-emission buses through a £3 billion fund.
  • The Scottish Government enacting the Just Transition Committee’s recommendation to rapidly roll-out spending of the £500 million committed to prioritise buses.
  • The establishment of a Scottish-wide bus scrappage scheme to replace older diesel buses with low emission and zero-emission buses.
  • The immediate procuring of a fleet of green buses for use at COP26 in Glasgow next November.
  • The acceleration of orders to bus manufacturers and the supply chain through the new Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme, which will provide £9 million this year to help bus operators invest in ultra-low emission vehicles.

Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said: ‘The prospect of Alexander Dennis further cutting its workforce by 70 jobs in addition to the 200 announced a number of weeks ago is staggering. Unite has worked day in and day out to ensure the company honours the agreed consultation processes with the workforce.
‘The sole objective for all should be to maximise the efforts to save jobs and to financially support workers through redundancy.
‘The lack of action by the UK government is also disgraceful. Unite wrote to Alister Jack – the Secretary of State for Scotland – on the 10th September, inviting him to discuss how together with Unite and the Scottish Government we could protect highly-skilled jobs in Falkirk.
‘The reality is that 75% of Alexander Dennis’ orders come from outside Scotland, with the vast majority of it being in the rest of the UK. Therefore, the lack of a response from Alister Jack to our overtures to support the workforce, and the inaction by Boris Johnson in relation to the promised funding for 4,000 low-emission buses through a £3 billion fund, is a shocking state of affairs.’

  • Unite has also reacted ‘with extreme dismay’ to the announcement by Stadco that they intend to close their manufacturing facility in Llanfyllin, Powys. The news has come as a complete shock to Unite and the 130-strong workforce.

The union’s Regional Officer David Griffiths said: ‘This news has come out of nowhere and has caused immense distress to the workforce.
‘Stadco are one of the largest manufacturing employers in Powys and an award winning manufacturer. This planned closure would be an enormous blow to the economy of Mid Wales and would be devastating for the workers and their families.
‘Unite will do everything it can to fight to retain these jobs, we will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit with Stadco and Magna the parent company, to find a solution to this planned closure.
‘Magna have committed themselves to social responsibility within their mission statement as a company. We expect them to live up to their word and work with Unite and the Welsh Government to explore every avenue available to prevent closure.’
Commenting on the outbreak of coronavirus at the Sunderland factory of automotive parts manufacturer Unipres, which supplies a number of major car firms including Honda, Nissan and Renault, Unite’s regional officer in the area Nick Halton said: ‘Around 15 Unipres workers have tested positive for coronavirus and a number of staff are self-isolating.
‘The health and safety of our members is Unite’s top priority and the union is working with Unipres to ensure everything possible is done to contain the outbreak and keep staff safe.
‘The company has been diligent in implementing a number of measures to prevent transmission occurring, including installing sanitising stations, requiring the wearing of masks and social distancing and staggering shift start and finish times. However, Unite has identified areas for improvement.
‘We have raised formal concerns with the company over the continued use of a biometric system used for clocking in and the fact staff can only use one entrance to enter the site, both of which we believe present unnecessary risks.
‘Unite will continue to closely monitor the site’s safety regime and impress the importance of it being strictly followed. We will not hesitate to hold Unipres to account if staff safety is being compromised.’