Heathrow workers ‘flying picket’ protest for London Living Wage

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Heathrow British Airways Mixed Fleet Cabin Crew during their strike action against low pay

WITH WAVES of strike action currently under way across UK airports, hundreds of workers are set to join a mass protest at Heathrow tomorrow, Saturday, to demand that all 90,000 employees receive at least the London Living Wage.

‘We call on Heathrow to honour its commitments and ensure thousands of workers are paid a wage they can live on,’ said the GMB union on Wednesday.

The ‘flying pickets’ demonstration, featuring live music and dancing, takes place on Saturday 27th April from 10.30am to 14.30pm  at Capital Place, 120 Bath Road, Heathrow UB3.

Following GMB’s long-running campaign, last year, Heathrow announced all contracted staff working at the airport would be paid the London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour by 2020.

Now the GMB is demanding that the airport make sure all staff – including contractors – are paid at least the London Living Wage (Currently £10.55 per hour).

2018 was the busiest year in Heathrow’s history, bringing in £3 billion revenue and 80.1m passengers.

Perry Phillips, GMB Regional Organiser, said on Wednesday: ‘GMB is demanding the London Living Wage for all Heathrow workers.

‘We call on Heathrow to honour its commitments and ensure that not only directly employed staff, but also the thousands of workers in the airport’s supply chain are paid a wage they can live on.

‘Contractors at the airport are not signing up to Heathrow’s commitment, meaning workers and their families are still suffering as a result of being paid a poverty wage.

‘Heathrow is thriving, but that success is built on the back of thousands of workers who keep the airport clean, safe and operational.

‘They need to share in Heathrow’s success.’

Meanwhile, hundreds of baggage handlers and check-in staff employed by GH London (formally Azzurra) at Heathrow and Luton airports are striking in two separate disputes over low pay.

Over 300 Unite members at Heathrow’s Terminals 2 and 4 are striking from 00:01 today, Friday 26 April to 23:59 on Monday 29 April after members voted overwhelmingly by 99.2 per cent to take strike action on a turnout of 68.4 per cent.

Workers are angry at a six-year pay freeze and are seeking to secure a minimum pay rate of the London Living Wage.

Meanwhile, over 120 GH London workers at Luton airport are striking at the same time in a one-week stoppage from 18:00 today, Friday 26 April to 17:59 on Friday 3 May.

An earlier stoppage in March at Luton had been called off because of an improved pay offer, but the company subsequently changed the structure of the deal, angering the workforce.

Airlines handled by GH London in Heathrow Terminal 2 and Terminal 4 include: Air India, Thai Airlines, Alitalia, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Gulf Air, Air Serbia, Air Mauritius, Bulgaria Air, TunisAir, Tarom and Air Malta.

At Luton Airport GH London provides ground-handling services to Wizz Air.

Wizz Air is a low-cost airline serving mainly central and eastern Europe with around 42 routes from Luton.

Kevin Hall, Unite regional officer representing the workers at Heathrow, said: ‘The overwhelming vote for strike action is proof that workers at Heathrow are fed up with year-on-year pay freezes.

‘There is a lot of anger with more and more workers joining Unite to demand an end to this pay injustice.

‘It is now time for GH London to recognise its workers’ contribution with a significant pay increase and a commitment to pay a minimum of the London Living Wage.’

Elsewhere, outsourcer Mitie is facing fresh disruption as members of Unite have voted for industrial action in separate disputes at London City airport and at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing centre in Cumbria.

The Sellafield dispute concerns pay and involves workers employed as security guards, catering, vending and laundry operatives.

The workers at the category one nuclear site are paid just £8.45 an hour.

Despite overwhelmingly rejecting Mitie’s pay offer, the company has refused to negotiate and therefore the union undertook an industrial action ballot.

Unite’s 180 members voted by 98 per cent in favour of strike action on a 70 per cent turnout.

Unite announced two 10-day periods of strike action the first beginning at 00:01 on Friday 19th April, concluding at 06:00 on Monday 29th April 2019, followed by a further strike beginning at 00:01 on Saturday 4th May, concluding at 06:00 hours on Monday 13th May.

This is complimented by a discontinuous ban on overtime commencing at 00:01 on Friday 19th April 2019.

Unite regional officer Ryan Armstrong said: ‘Mitie is a multi-million pound company that is refusing to pay workers even the living wage, on a high security site.

‘Our members are no longer going to accept poverty wages and if Mitie wants to prevent huge disruption at the complex, then it needs to make a fair pay offer.’

Unite members employed by Mitie at London City Airport are also taking action in a dispute over pay, conditions, recognition and welfare facilities.

The workers are employed as security guards and providing assistance to workers with mobility issues.

The workforce is seeking a significant pay increase, enhanced rates of pay for overtime and improved sick pay.

They are also demanding that Mitie recognises Unite and that adequate rest break facilities are provided.

Currently workers have just a 45-minute break, but their restroom is a 15 minutes walk away from their workplace.

Workers voted 100 per cent in favour of industrial action on a 69 per cent turnout.

Unite regional officer Michelle Cook said: ‘Mitie is treating its workforce with complete contempt. Workers are being subjected to low pay and third rate conditions.

‘Mitie is drinking in the last chance saloon and if it wants to avoid industrial action then they need to immediately enter into meaningful negotiations and properly address the workers concerns.’

Meanwhile, in a further example of Mitie industrial unrest, Unite members employed at Southampton hospital as security guards held the first of eight days of industrial action on Friday 8th April in a dispute over safety, pay and sick pay.

Mitie has failed to provide the security guards with stab vests despite the workers coming under frequent attack from patients and hospital visitors.

The workers are paid just £8.64 an hour and only receive sick pay if they can prove that they were injured at work.

Seven days of strike action are under way, with a 24-hour strike having taken place on 19th April and a further 24-hour strike on 24 May, plus a 48-hour stoppage starting on 3rd May and a further 72-hour strike on 7th June. All the strikes start at 00.01.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen Airport workers have voted for strike action over a pay claim for 2019 and against proposals to close the final salary pension scheme.

It was announced on Monday 23rd April that Unite members supported strike action by 88.3 per cent on a 79.5 per cent turnout.

The airport is part of AGS Airports Limited group, which also owns Glasgow and Southampton airports, with all three airports being subject to the pension proposal.

In January 2019, Aberdeen airport issued a 60-day consultation on closing the defined benefit pension scheme which broke an Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) agreement made in 2016 to keep the scheme open to existing members.

Progress has been made through the auspices of Acas with AGS Airports tabling a pay offer of three per cent for Aberdeen International and Glasgow airports.

No agreement has been reached on the proposals regarding the pension scheme, however.

Shauna Wright, Unite regional industrial officer, said: ‘After this resounding result in favour of strike action at Aberdeen airport, AGS should be left in no doubt about the strength of feeling among Unite members.

‘We recognise the movement on pay by AGS, but the sticking point remains the attack on our members’ pension scheme.

‘Talks through Acas are ongoing and Unite, once again, encourages the company to use this period constructively to find an agreeable resolution to this dispute.

‘But, if the company doesn’t, then they know that our members are prepared to fight to protect their hard earned pensions through strike action or action short of strike during the busy holiday season.’