Security staff at Heathrow Airport will stage three more days of strikes this week in an ongoing dispute over pay.
Around 1,400 workers have already staged three days of walkouts in May after pay talks between the Unite union and airport bosses collapsed.
They will now walk out again from on 25, 26 and 27 May, affecting passenger and cargo services. The airport says that no flights will be cancelled as result, unlike the Easter holidays when British Airways cancelled more than 300 short-haul flights due tp strikes by security workers.
The union says it is taking action over the “poverty wages” paid by the airport, which have left staff facing a real-terms pay cut of 24% since 2017.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “Unite has given Heathrow Airport every opportunity to make an improved pay offer, which could have led to the strike action being suspended. Sadly, they refused to grasp the opportunity to make an offer which could meet members’ expectations.”
The union said that the offer of a 10% increase in the face of inflation at 13%, combined with several years of pay freezes, amounted to a pay cut that left workers struggling to make ends meet and the latest talks at conciliation service ACAS had failed to bring any improved offer. Airport bosses say the deal is an "inflation-matching" offer that also includes an additional lump sum payment.
The strike action involves security staff employed at Terminal Five, which is used exclusively by British Airways, and campus security guards who are responsible for searching all personnel and vehicles entering the airport site.
Airport bosses said that they had put into action contingency plans to keep services running, including drafting in an additional 750 staff from other areas, but warned passengers to expect disruption, incuding longer waits.
A Heathrow spokesperson claimed the majority of staff did not support strike action, adding: "Colleagues could have an inflation-matching pay increase for two years – 10% this year and a CPI-linked increase in 2024, as well as a £1,150 lump sum but instead they’re left empty-handed by Unite’s refusal to allow members to vote on the offer."
Unite says staff at Heathrow, who earn an average of £30,000 including shift allowances, face an "indefensible" pay gap between them and security staff at other, smaller airports. According to its analysis, security officers at Stansted and Gatwick airports are paid between £5,000 and £6,000 more than those at Heathrow.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Heathrow prides itself on being the UK’s premium airport – it is bigger and handles more flights and cargo than any other. So it is frankly indefensible that security officer pay is far lower than other London airports. Imagine, the so-called ‘best in Britain’ is actually a citadel for poverty pay. How can this be justified?"