‘Heathrow sits on mountain of cash while sacking 4,000’ says Unite as strike ballot is underway

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Heathrow catering workers at a rally to defend their jobs and conditions

‘HEATHROW’S cash mountain should be used to help low paid staff threatened by “fire and rehire”,’ Unite said yesterday. Heathrow workers are currently being balloted for strike action over attempts to carry out over 4,000 sackings and vicious pay cuts.

Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) has issued notices to ‘fire and rehire’ staff on vastly inferior pay and conditions, which will mean workers losing up to £8,000 per annum – about 25 per cent of their pay. The proposals will affect about 4,000 workers employed by HAL.

Members of Unite employed directly by HAL – including security officers, engineers, airside operatives and firefighters – are currently balloting for industrial action over these plans with the ballot closing next Thursday, 5 November.

Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King said: ‘The remarks made by Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye boasting that the company had a cash mountain to tide it through the pandemic for the next two years shows a scant and callous disregard for those on the airport’s frontline, such as security operatives and firefighters.

‘Driving down the wages of our members will hit not just their pay packets in the run-up to Christmas, but the local economy in the Heathrow region with the possibility that restaurants, pubs and local shops being badly affected.’

Recent Unite research has showed that 84,400 people are directly employed at the airport, which hosts 320 businesses making it the largest workplace in Europe.

One in five of local jobs are based at the airport and 40 per cent of the workforce in the surrounding area is employed in the aviation sector.

Heathrow says it has been overtaken as Europe’s busiest airport for the first time by Paris Charles de Gaulle because of the slump in demand for air travel.

Some 19 million passengers travelled through Heathrow in the first nine months of the year, compared with 19.3 million who used the airport in the French capital.

Heathrow said Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt were ‘close behind’.

It said all three airports had adopted testing regimes so had reopened faster.

By contrast, Britain had been ‘too slow to embrace passenger testing’ as a way of people reducing or avoiding quarantine, and was ‘falling behind’.