Last-ditch talks to avoid an Easter holiday strike by around 1,400 security officers at Heathrow Airport got underway on Thursday morning after the airport operator agreed at the eleventh hour to further negotiations with union reps.
Fearing travel chaos during the busy holiday getaway, Heathrow has activated a slew of contingency plans to keep the airport operating during the Easter period. The airport has, however, ordered airlines to stop selling tickets for the duration of the strike, and British Airways has been forced to cancel more than 300 flights.
Following last week’s failed pay negotiations, Heathrow bosses reportedly refused to meet for further talks ahead of the strike getting underway on Friday but had a change of heart at the last minute. Negotiators from the airport and union met at Heathrow’s headquarters at 10 am on Thursday.
Heathrow has offered a pay rise of 10 per cent for security officers who work in Terminal 5, as well as ‘campus’ security guards who check all the cargo that enters the airport.
Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union, has dismissed the offer, calling it a real-term pay cut in the face of soaring inflation.
Graham described security officers at the airport surviving on “poverty pay” while the remuneration package of the outgoing chief executive John Holland-Kaye has shot up by 88 per cent to £1.5 million in the last year.
“The offer of new talks is to be welcomed. But Heathrow’s executives have to realise that the genie is out the bottle,” Graham said Wednesday night.
“Workers can’t be expected to accept real-term pay cuts as shareholders and bosses get richer and richer. So, if the strike is to be averted, there needs to be more real money put on the table to make a decent pay rise.”
British Airways is set to be hardest hit if the strikes of go ahead as it is the only airline based out of Terminal 5. On Thursday, the airline said its dedicated First Wing would be shuttered and that Fast Track security lanes would be reduced.
The airline is also encouraging customers to check in as much luggage as possible to avoid the need to screen baggage in the few security lanes that will remain open.
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.