The Unite union has slammed Heathrow airport’s take it or leave it new pay and conditions offer, claiming it risks "undermining confidence" in the UK’s aviation sector.
Unite says Heathrow is planning to "fire and rehire" in excess of 1,000 workers on lower pay and poorer conditions after the airport confirmed on Wednesday (2 September) it had entered into formal consultation period with staff.
The union said talks with Heathrow revealed it planned to cut pay by up to 24% for some workers, adjust allowances and conditions, and close the company’s pension scheme.
Unite is currently putting the proposals to its members in a consultative ballot.
Heathrow said its final offer was informed by feedback from its negotiations with Unite over the past four months.
The airport added that with air travel "showing little sign of recovery", discussions could not go on indefinitely. "We must act now to prevent our situation from worsening," said Heathrow.
Wayne King, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, said: “HAL’s [Heathrow Airport Limited] actions are extremely unhelpful and further undermine confidence in the industry.
“Our members have worked tirelessly throughout Covid-19 pandemic – to conduct industrial relations via the media in such a brutish manner is designed to create fear and panic in a group of key workers.
“HAL’s actions have made already difficult negotiations even more fraught.
“Unite urges HAL to withdraw this ill-judged attack on its loyal workforce and to return to the negotiating table as had been previously agreed.”
King added Heathrow’s actions were also harming Unite’s efforts to persuade the UK government to follow the lead of other European nations and provide "specific financial support" for the aviation sector.
Heathrow said more than half of its employees’ salaries would not be affected by the changes, with those impacted likely to see decreases of 15% to 20% – and none falling below the London Living Wage.
“Covid-19 has decimated the aviation industry which has led to an unprecedented drop in passenger numbers at Heathrow, costing the airport over £1 billion since the start of March," said Heathrow.
“Provisional traffic figures for August show passenger numbers remain 82% down on last year, and we must urgently adapt to this new reality.
“Discussions with our unions have taken place over four months and our final offer is informed by feedback we have received from them."
Heathrow also confirmed formal consultation was under way, and that the process would "guarantee a job at the airport for anyone who wishes to stay with our business".