The Unite union has threatened to "shut down" Britain's biggest airport Heathrow this summer after calling a series of strikes over pay. Disruption is also expected across other London airports in separate disputes over pay and conditions. Pilots of the British Airways have, meanwhile, balloted for a strike. Unite has said that over 4,000 employees, including security guards, engineers and passenger service staff were set to walk out for six days, including two of the summer's busiest weekends. The move may potentially shut down the airport.
Heathrow said it would implement contingency plans to ensure the airport remained open to make sure disruption for passengers was minimised. Over 80 million passengers travel through Heathrow each year and the strike are coming at the worst time. It could possibly be the busiest ever weekend, from July 26. Other planned strike dates are July 27, and August 5, 6, 23, and 24.
Unite said the dispute had escalated after Heathrow made an 18-month pay offer that would give the lowest paid an extra £3.75 a day. The union said there was deepening anger over pay disparities between workers, as well as over the pay of the airport's chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, which doubled last year to £4.2m, while shareholders also took billions in dividends.
Union officer Wayne King said, "Bosses at Heathrow airport need to get their heads out of the sand and start negotiating meaningfully over pay. Otherwise there will be significant disruption to flights to and from Heathrow and the potential closure of the airport over the summer months because of industrial action."
A Heathrow spokeserson, meanwhile said, "We are disappointed that Unite will be taking strike action. Following this decision, we will be implementing contingency plans that will ensure the airport remains open and operating safely throughout any coordinated action. We will be working alongside our airline partners to minimise disruption caused to passengers as they look towards their well-deserved summer holidays."
The latest potential disruption for holidaymakers comes after environmental activists at Extinction Rebellion suspended planned action to disrupt Heathrow this summer, although plans to fly a drone within the 5 km exclusion zone, potentially closing the airport, are expected to be resurrected with a two-month notice period later this year.
This week, British Airways and Ryanair warned that due to workers' strike threat holiday flights could again be disrupted by air traffic bottlenecks, staff shortages and controller strikes. BA's flights could be disrupted by strikes in August. EasyJet said it had contingency plans in place so there would be no impact on passengers. A spokesman said, "Despite this we could urge Stobart Aviation and Unite to reach a suitable resolution as soon as possible.