The British union Unite has announced a long series of 31 days of strike at London's Heathrow airport, at the height of the summer holidays, by security guards lamenting "abject" pay levels. In a statement on Wednesday, Unite said more than 2000,31 security guards among its members will strike for 24 days from June <>, a rise in a social conflict that has lasted for months.
These new strike measures at Terminal 3 of the airport are expected to lead to "disruptions, delays and cancellations of flights at many airlines including Virgin, Emirates, Qatar, United, American and Delta," says Unite. These work stoppages are in addition to others at Terminal 5 that will "have a heavy impact on British Airways' flight schedule," adds the union. Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, says Heathrow is "an incredibly successful business, and anticipates comfortable profits this summer with juicy salaries expected for executives". The company that manages the airport "would also have to distribute huge dividends to shareholders, and yet its employees are struggling to make ends meet and are paid far less than workers at other airports" in the British capital.
An offer of an increase "below inflation"
The employees concerned rejected an offer of a "lower than inflation" increase of 10.1% "while the retail price index or RPI, a measure of inflation used in many areas, is 'currently at 11.4%', notes Unite, who speaks of "bitterness among employees". The union adds that the average remuneration of airport employees has fallen by 24% since 2017 in real terms, "namely excluding inflation, while" the remuneration of chief executive John Holland-Kaye, between 2020 and 2021, has fallen from 800,000 pounds to 1.5 million pounds per year, denounces Unite.
At Easter, the airport had already experienced a strike of some 1400 security guards for ten days in the middle of school holidays, after the failure of wage discussions. Heathrow says it has already increased wages by 4% last year and has also paid 2000,<> pounds in bonus. The airport had already suffered, in the spring of last year and again during the summer holidays, from strikes and staff shortages that resulted in long queues, delays, baggage handling problems and cancellations.
Strikes have been multiplying for about a year in the UK, particularly in rail or airport services, education, health, logistics, among civil servants, to demand better wages and salaries in a context of very high inflation (8.7% in April in the country) and shortages of workers in many sectors. Heathrow, which belongs to a consortium dominated by Spain's Ferrovial, saw its net profit return to positive territory in 2022, buoyed by a strong rebound in traffic after two years weighed down by its collapse during the pandemic.