Heathrow Airport: security guard union's 'summer of strife' strikes called off with new pay deal

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Unite members have voted to accept a new pay deal, and workers will receive a pay increase of between 15.5% and 17.5%

Security guards at Heathrow have called off plans for 31 days of fresh strike action this month, in what their union said would have been a "summer of strife" for the airport.

Members of Unite the Union have ended a long-running dispute over pay, after the union claimed that workers have suffered a 24% cut in real terms since 2017. The strikes would have followed a three-day strike action where workers walked out on 25, 26 and 27 May, coinciding with the start of the half-term holidays.

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On Friday (23 June), the union announced their new strike plans were off, after members voted to accept a new pay deal. The union said workers will receive an increase of between 15.5% and 17.5%.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This was a hard won victory which demonstrates what can be achieved when workers stand together and take action together... The pay deal at Heathrow is a further demonstration of how Unite’s complete focus on jobs, pay and conditions is having direct benefits for its members.”

This comes after the union announced on 7 June that 2,000 security officers would take part in 31 days of strike action beginning on Saturday, 24 June, For the first time security officers based at Terminal Three would join their colleagues from Terminal Five and campus security on the picket line, it said.

Workers at London's Heathrow Airport  have been involved in ongoing strike action in a pay dispute (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)Workers at London's Heathrow Airport  have been involved in ongoing strike action in a pay dispute (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Workers at London's Heathrow Airport have been involved in ongoing strike action in a pay dispute (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

The walkout by workers at Terminal Three would have resulted in a large number of airlines facing the prospect of disruption, delays and cancellations this summer, including Virgin, Emirates, Qatar, United, American and Delta. The extensive walkouts at Terminal Five would have heavily affected British Airway’s summer schedule.

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

“HAL [Heathrow Airport Limited] has got its priorities all wrong. This is an incredibly wealthy company, which this summer is anticipating bumper profits and an executive pay bonanza," she 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.”

The workers had rejected an earlier below-inflation pay offer of 10.1%. The union said there was "widespread bitterness" among the workforce about how HAL used the cover of the pandemic to slash wages in real terms, using a "fire and rehire" strategy.

It is understood the new strikes were first going to be announced on Friday (2 June). In a statement, Unite said its notice regarding the industrial action at Heathrow was not yet not live, and would be served on the employer next week.

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In an earlier Tweet, which was later deleted, Unite said security guards at Heathrow Airport would stage a series of 33 fresh strike days. The union has planned industrial action for almost every weekend, from mid-June to the end of August, over what it called "poverty pay" for workers.

A Heathrow spokesperson had said at the time: “Passengers can rest assured that we will do everything we can to minimise strike disruption so they can enjoy their hard-earned summer holidays."

“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," they said. “The simple fact remains that the majority of colleagues do not support Unite’s strikes."

“There is a two-year inflation-beating pay rise ready for colleagues, if only Unite would allow them to have a say," the company said. “We will continue talks with Unite about resolving this issue.”

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