Strike looms as Heathrow bosses reject union pay plan

Staff at Heathrow airport could go on strike next month as managers have rebuffed union proposals for workers and bosses to return their bonuses.

Unite the union says the airport is using a “controversial fire-and-rehire scheme” to force more than 4,000 workers to accept pay cuts of up to £8,000 per annum.

Members of Unite employed by Heathrow – including security officers, engineers, airside operatives and firefighters – began balloting for industrial action on October 8 because of the “fire-and-rehire” policy.

The ballot closes on November 5 and if members vote for industrial action, strikes could begin later next month.

Under the proposals put forward by Unite, all workers would have returned their airport profit bonus of £700 each and directors, including chief executive John Holland Kaye, would also have returned their bonuses.

The union said Holland Kaye was contractually entitled to a £565,965 bonus and a ‘share in success’ payment of more than £1 million due to be paid in August.

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Wayne King, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, said: “Unite presented clear alternatives to Heathrow’s management which would have offset the need to make such draconian pay cuts. Our proposals were rejected out of hand.

“Unite has consistently said since this dispute began that the pay cuts are all about greed and not need.

“HAL has continually told us ‘we’re all in this together’, but while our members are prepared to repay their bonus for 2019 the directors have flatly refused. We’re clearly not even vaguely in this together.”

But the airport management said the union must “wake up to the fact that our industry is in crisis”.

Kathryn Leahy, Heathrow director of operations, said: “Our priority has been to protect jobs rather than making compulsory redundancies. But in order to do that, we have to make changes.

“Our offer ensures that everyone who wants a job will have one and they will be paid above a market-rate salary.

“Our proposal provides support to impacted colleagues with a payment to cushion these changes equal to two times the change in their salary.

“Actions are being taken to protect our future, and we are dismayed that the unions appear to prefer wholesale compulsory redundancies rather than protecting livelihoods.”

Holland Kaye told Travel Weekly last month that warned UK aviation could suffer the same fate as London’s Docks if air travel can’t resume in volume until a Covid-19 vaccine is available.

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