PCS Heathrow strike ballot launched! – while TUC and Unite stress that they support ‘national interest’

PCS members at Tate Galleries’ striking to defend jobs earlier this year

THE PCS (Public and Commercial Services) union has served notice on the Home Office of its intention to ballot members at Heathrow Airport for strike action after the employer announced it will impose shift changes with new team working fixed rosters from the 6th January 2021.

For many years staff working on the passport (immigration) control at Heathrow have been able to swap and request shifts.

This has enabled those with caring responsibilities or disabilities to have some flexibility over their shifts and working patterns to deal with domestic obligations or to manage their medical conditions.

Local management have now called for an end to these practices with very limited ability to swap shifts and no duty requests allowed in the new team working fixed rosters, preventing people from changing shifts, hitting those with caring responsibilities and the disabled hardest.

PCS has raised concerns over equality data being incomplete and the employer’s legal obligations towards staff members with protected characteristics not being adequately addressed.

In a further insult to staff, the employer is using Covid as the excuse for bringing in these changes.

Border Force says the roster changes are necessary to reduce contacts between staff, however members believe that management have been planning the changes for some time and are using the pandemic to try to force it through now.

Members have pointed to the fact that management ignored calls from the union early in the pandemic for screens, provision of PPE, temperature checks and other measures to protect staff and customers, particularly on passport control.

If the Home Office refuses to listen to staff concerns over the new team working fixed rosters then PCS will begin balloting members from 8 January 2021.

Meanwhile, commenting on the UK-EU trade agreement TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘This deal is better than nothing, but not by much. It won’t protect jobs and puts hard-won workers’ rights on the line.’

O’Grady then proceeded to make the government responsible for securing workers’ wages and jobs stating: ‘As we come out of the pandemic, we’re facing a crunch point for jobs and living standards.

‘This deal is on the prime minister’s head – it’s his responsibility to make sure working families don’t end up worse off.’

The Unite union added its support for the deal, saying: ‘Government must deliver an industrial strategy for decent work, with investment in jobs and green industries in parts of the country that need it most.

‘Ministers must also urgently build on this deal to overcome the barriers to trade and higher production costs many sectors will face which puts jobs at risk. And we will not accept a race to the bottom on rights.’

The union added: ‘The government must not be allowed to put its feet up and claim job done. Far from it. The new year will bring a need to roll up our sleeves in the national interest and build the broadest possible alliance to safeguard and advance the long-term interests of our manufacturing heartlands.’

Unite is more worried about the ‘national interest’, that is the profits of the bosses, than it is about the wages and jobs of workers.