A series of planned strikes at Heathrow Airport in a dispute over pay is threatening to cause summer travel chaos.
More than 4,000 workers, including security guards, engineers, passenger service operatives and drivers, are set to walk out on 26 July and 27 July, 5 August and 6 August, and 23 August and 24 August, in a move that could potentially shut down the airport.
It comes after members of the Unite union backed strike action in eight separate strike ballots.
Heathrow said it was “disappointed” at the threatened industrial action and that it would implement contingency plans to ensure the airport remained open.
The move follows the rejection of an 18-month pay offer amounting to 2.7%, which according to Unite amounted to an extra £3.75 a day for the lowest-paid workers involved in the dispute.
The planned strikes come amid anger over pay differences between workers doing the same job at the airport and the massive pay hike for Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye.
Last year, he saw his basic pay package double, soaring from £2.1m in 2017 to £4.2m in 2018.
Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King said: “There is deepening anger over pay among workers who are essential to the smooth running of Heathrow Airport.
“They are fed up of being expected to accept crumbs while the chief executive pockets an eye-popping 103% rise in his pay package and shareholders are handed dividends of over £2bn in the last two years alone.
“To add insult to injury there are widening pay disparities leading to airport security guards employed after 2014 earning up to £6,000 less than colleagues hired before that date.
“Unite members ensured over 80 million passengers passed safely through Heathrow in the last 12 months and contributed massively to the airport’s huge profits last year.
“Unite and our members support Heathrow expansion and are working hard to deliver it, but we will not allow Heathrow bosses to get away with low pay.
“All our members are seeking is a pay deal that recognises their important role in keeping passengers safe and on the move, in addition to a commitment by Heathrow bosses to close pay disparities which are leading to a high turnover of staff.
“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 spokesman 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.
“We are proud of our record as a good employer and we remain committed to finding a solution.
“We have proposed a progressive pay package giving at least a 4.6% pay rise to over 70% of our frontline colleagues.
“The total package offered is above RPI (Retail Price Index) and is specifically designed to boost the wages of lower paid colleagues.
“We have invited our union colleagues back to the table and urge them to continue working with us to reach an agreement.”