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News / Business

Security guards at London’s Heathrow Airport to escalate strikes over pay into busy summer months

By PAN PYLAS, Associated Press
Published: June 7, 2023, 9:41am

LONDON (AP) — Security guards at London’s Heathrow Airport, Europe’s busiest, will escalate their strike action over pay into the busy summer months, the U.K.’s largest trade union said Wednesday.

The Unite union said more than 2,000 of its members will walk out for 31 days from June 24 through to Aug. 27, a move that could wreak havoc for the millions of people going through Heathrow during the summer travel season.

Security guards have already been striking in recent months, including during the Easter break and the coronation of King Charles III, walkouts that Heathrow says resulted in “no impact” on the smooth running of the airport.

“Unite is putting Heathrow on notice that strike action at the airport will continue until it makes a fair pay offer to its workers,” Unite general-secretary Sharon Graham said. “Make no mistake, our members will receive the union’s unflinching support in this dispute.”

Security officers at Terminal 3, which is the base for many international carriers, including American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, will be joining their colleagues from Terminal 5, which is British Airways’ main hub.

Last December, military personnel were drafted in to check passports at U.K. airports including Heathrow during strikes by Border Force stuff.

Unite said security guards have rejected a 10.1% pay offer from Heathrow, which is below the level at which consumer price inflation has been running since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. Unite also said that its in-house research shows that the average pay of workers at Heathrow has fallen 24% in real terms since 2017.

Unite also said there is also “widespread bitterness” among workers that Heathrow used the “cover of the pandemic” to enforce a “fire and rehire” strategy.

“This is an incredibly wealthy company, which this summer is anticipating bumper profits and an executive pay bonanza,” Graham said. “It’s also expected to pay out huge dividends to shareholders, yet its workers can barely make ends meet and are paid far less than workers at other airports.”

Heathrow said the majority of workers at the airport think the strike action is unjustified, but insisted it would continue to to talk to Unite in hopes of resolving the issue.

“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,” a Heathrow spokesperson said on condition of anonymity in line with company policy.

With inflation running at multi-decade highs, the U.K. has been riddled with multiple strikes across sectors over the past few months, from nurses to barristers and train drivers.