Security guards at London’s Heathrow Airport will intensify their industrial action as the Unite union announced on Wednesday June 7th a total of 31 additional days of strikes between now and the beginning of September, particularly during peak travel periods. The country’s largest union is still demanding a 12% pay rise for its members; to achieve this after several months of conflict with London airport operator HAL (Heathrow Airport Limited).
The strike period is set to start on Saturday June 24 and Sunday June 25, and continues from Wednesday June 28 to Friday June 30. Then, after a two-week break, seven consecutive weekends will be marked by the strike: from Friday July 14 to Sunday July 16, from Friday July 21 to Monday July 24, from Friday July 28 to Monday July 31, from Friday August 4 to Monday August 7, from Friday August 11 to Monday August 14, from Friday August 18 to Sunday August 20, and finally from Thursday August 24 to Sunday August 27.
Strikes at the airport will continue until it makes a fair pay offer to its workers.Sharon Graham, Unite’s Secretary General
These dates include some of the busiest air travel periods of the year. According to aviation analytics firm Cirium, 21,200 flights would be affected on the targeted days. Previously limited to Terminal 5, the strike will also affect Terminal 3, affecting the operations of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Emirates and Qatar Airways.
According to the union, security staff salaries have fallen by 24% since 2017, namely due to new contracts imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic, followed by the wave of inflation linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Secretary general Sharon Graham said, “Unite is warning Heathrow that the strike at the airport will continue until it makes a fair pay offer to its workers.” According to the union, security guards were the highest paid before pandemic. They are however now paid between £5,000 and £6,000 less a year than those working at Gatwick and Stansted airports.
For its part, Heathrow has remained firm about its position. “Unite has already tried and failed to disrupt the airport with unnecessary strikes on some of our busiest days and we continue to build our plans to protect journeys during any future action,” an airport spokesperson said, as quoted by Sky news. “Passengers can rest assured that we will do everything we can to minimize strike disruption so they can enjoy their hard-earned summer holidays.”
The union’s leadership has accused HAL of neglecting the well-being of employees, as well as having other priorities in mind. “This summer HAL is forecasting bumper profits and a windfall for executive salaries,” said Unite’s Sharon Graham. “It is also expected to pay huge dividends to shareholders, but its employees barely make ends meet and are paid far less than employees at other airports.”