Heathrow Airport strikes: passengers face holiday chaos as 1,400 staff begin 8-day walkout

Security guards at the London airport will walkout this month after pay talks broke down

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Heathrow Airport passengers are being warned to brace for more travel disruption as security guards begin a new series of strikes.

Around 1,400 members of the Unite union based at Terminal 5 and in campus security will walk out over eight days after last-minute talks over a pay dispute broke down, risking chaos for holidaymakers.

The strikes begin on Thursday 4 May and include the run-up to and the day of King Charles’ coronation. Workers will strike on eight days in total on the following dates:

  • Thursday 4 May
  • Friday 5 May
  • Saturday 6 May
  • Tuesday 9 May
  • Wednesday 10 May
  • Thursday 25 May
  • Friday 26 May
  • Saturday 27 May
Security guards at Heathrow Airport will walkout on eight days this month (Photo: Getty Images)Security guards at Heathrow Airport will walkout on eight days this month (Photo: Getty Images)
Security guards at Heathrow Airport will walkout on eight days this month (Photo: Getty Images)

The latest action comes following previous walkouts over Easter, with Unite saying talks at the conciliation service Acas failed to resolve the pay row.

The union’s 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.”

Unite says security officers at Stansted and Gatwick airports are paid between £5,000 and £6,000 more than staff at Heathrow, while workers at the much smaller Luton airport are still paid over £500 more. Heathrow security officers receive a basic pay of £26,000, which is boosted by a £4,000 shift allowance.

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?”

Heathrow said last month it had offered workers a 10% increase plus a one-off £1,150 since January, but it claimed the union failed to put the revised offer to union members.

Airport bosses are advising passengers to check their flight status before travelling to the airport and said it is confident the latest strikes will not disrupt people flying to and from Heathrow in the run-up to the coronation.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Passengers can be reassured that they will travel as normal. This is an important time for the country, and we will not let these unnecessary strikes disrupt journeys.

“We have activated our contingency plans and deployed 750 additional colleagues and the entire management team who will be on hand in the terminals providing assistance to passengers.

“The majority of colleagues do not support strike action. 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.

“We have therefore asked for the independent and specialist support of Acas to chair further talks with unions and find a resolution.”

Passengers at Edinburgh Airport could also face disruption this summer as Unite is balloting around 275 workers on walkouts, including members employed in security, terminal operations and search areas.

Unite says staff have seen their pay cut by around 10% in real terms over the last seven years and warned that workers are “prepared to fight for a better deal”.

Union members at the airport have rejected an inferior pay offer to one that was made to staff at Gatwick, where a 12% increase plus a £1,500 one-off cash payment has been accepted by the workforce.

Edinburgh Airport said it had offered staff an 11% pay rise along with a £1,000 cost-of-living payment - a deal it described as “fair and competitive”. But Unite argues that pay needs to keep up with the rising cost of living and called on airport bosses to make a “realistic” pay offer to staff.