Airlines have been put on alert for potential mass disruption at Heathrow Airport over the busy Easter holidays after last-ditch pay talks with a union that represents security officers failed to reach an agreement over pay and conditions.
The threat of a walkout by security screening staff is limited to Heathrow’s Terminal 5, which is the exclusive terminal of British Airways but airport bosses have already asked other airlines to start limiting new ticket sales over the holiday period because disruption could spread across other terminals.
The Unite union is demanding a pay rise for security officers based in Terminal 5 that, at the very least, meets the current rate of inflation.
Inflation, as measured by the retail price index, is currently running as high as 13.4 per cent prompting the union to dismiss an offer from Heathrow bosses for an immediate 10 per cent pay rise.
“Workers at Heathrow Airport are on poverty wages while the chief executive and senior managers enjoy huge salaries,” slammed the union’s general secretary Sharon Graham last week.
“Our members are simply unable to make ends meet due to the low wages paid by Heathrow. They are being forced to take strike action due to need not greed.”
Graham has called on security officers to stage a 10-day walkout beginning on 31st March. Along with the main walkout at Terminal 5, security workers who protect Heathrow’s cargo operation would also take part in the strike.
Further talks were held on Friday in a bid to avert the walkout, but Heathrow later confirmed that the impasse could not be broken.
Heathrow could make airlines cancel flights and add capacity caps in an attempt to keep the airport from grinding to a halt. No decisions have yet been made, although the airport is encouraging airlines to stop selling new tickets over the strike period.
“These strikes are completely avoidable and not supported by the majority of Unite members at Heathrow,” a spokesperson for the airport said on Friday.
“We are taking action to minimise the impact on those who have already booked, including asking airlines to open flexible booking policies and to put a hold on the sale of new tickets on strike days.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.