Heathrow airport ground handlers will go ahead with strike action this week after workers rejected a pay offer.
Around 400 members of Unite employed by private contractors Menzies will walkout for 72-hours from 4am on Friday (16 December).
The action will be followed by a further 72-hour strike at the end of this month, beginning on Thursday 29 December and ending at 3.59am on Sunday 1 January, leading to major flight disruption for passengers.
The strike will affect flights operated by 10 major airlines from Heathrow Terminals 2, 3 and 4, impacting holidaymakers heading abroad for a Christmas and New Year break.
Flights operated by Air Canada, American Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Air Portugal, Austrian Airlines, Qantas, Egypt Air, Aer Lingus and Finnair are most likely to be affected by the three-day strike action .
Ground handling workers are walking out in protest over pay after Unite said staff have been offered a flat rate increase – which it branded a real-terms pay cut. The Unite union said workers have not received a "fair" pay offer and it is dedicated to defending its members.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is a classic case of an employer that can fully afford to pay workers a fair pay increase but has chosen not to. Menzies needs to stop making excuses and make a pay offer that meets our members’ expectations.”
The workers rejected Menzies’ latest pay offer which Unite said was for 4% backdated to May and then a further 6.5% from 1 January 2023. However, staff are seeking an increase of 13% for 2022 alone.
Unite regional officer Kevin Hall added: “Heathrow passengers need to brace themselves for fresh disruption at the airport purely because of Menzies intransigence. Strike action is being taken as a last resort because Menzies has only been prepared to offer our members a miserable pay increase that in no way reflects the cost of living.”
Heathrow airport has stressed it does not employ the workers, while Menzies says it has contingency plans in place for the strikes.
Miguel Gomez Sjunnesson, EVP Europe, Menzies Aviation said: “We are extremely disappointed that Unite has rejected the pay increase despite GMB accepting the offer. Our offer of a 10.5% salary increase is extremely competitive and reflects feedback from our employees.
“It is a great shame that as a result of Unite rejecting the offer, strike action will now fall on one of the busiest weekends of the year as people travel to meet family and friends for Christmas.
“We are well prepared for industrial action and have been working closely with key partners to put in place robust contingency plans. We remain committed to ensuring that our employees receive their increase as soon as possible and hope to be able to resolve this matter soon.”
The post-Christmas strike action will coincide with a planned walkout by Border Force Staff. Border Force workers at five major airports will stage eight days of strikes across Christmas as part of wider action by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union which is also affecting the Department for Work and Pensions, National Highways and DVSA.
Around 1,000 Border Force staff employed by the Home Office will walk out at London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow airports on 2 to 26 December, and 28 to 31 December. Members will also strike at the port of Newhaven on the same dates.
Workers are striking as part of a bitter dispute over pay, pensions and jobs which has seen the union reject a 2% pay offer from the government. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the strike will have a “significant impact” on travellers and warned the government against bringing in the military to cover for the strikes, saying there was not enough time to train them properly.