Easter holidaymakers have been warned as 10 days of strike action by security guards at Heathrow Airport is set to start today (Friday March 31) after last-minute talks over a pay dispute failed. Around 1,400 staff and Unite union members employed by Heathrow Airports Ltd (HAL) will take part in industrial action ending 23:59 on Easter Sunday (April 9).
The strikes will involve security staff at Heathrow’s Terminal Five, which will affect anyone travelling with British Airways, as well as campus security guards responsible for checking cargo that enters the airport. Because of this, British Airways have said it has cancelled around 5 percent of its planned flights during the strikes and has stopped all sale of tickets for the same days.
Heathrow said it has a plan in place to help passengers travelling during the Easter holidays, but Unite has said the strikes will cause disruption. The union said the pay negotiations broke down because of HAL’s failure to substantially improve its pay offer.
Wayne King, Unite regional coordinating officer, said: "Heathrow Airport has thrown away the opportunity to avoid strikes. Unite went into [Friday’s] meeting looking for an offer our members could accept. Unfortunately it seems HAL went in with no intention of avoiding industrial action.
"The strike action will undoubtedly result in severe delays and disruption to passengers across the airport but this dispute is a direct result of Heathrow Airport’s stubborn refusal to pay its workers fairly."
HAL said it has its contingency plans in place and is drafting 1,000 extra staff to its terminals to minimise disruption. A spokesperson for the airport said: "We will not let these unnecessary strikes impact the hard-earned holidays of our passengers. Our contingency plans will keep the airport operating as normal throughout."
They added: "Following further talks, Unite has again refused to take an improved offer to members, despite the PCS union wanting to do so. Colleagues could have an above-inflation 10% pay increase back-dated to January 1 and a lump sum payment of £1,150, but instead they’re left empty-handed by Unite’s actions."
In a statement, Heathrow said that due to the strikes and the busy holidays, it may take longer to get through security. They added: "Passengers can help us ensure they get the best start to their journeys by checking their flight status with their airline before travelling to the airport, arriving at I no earlier than two hours before short haul flights and three hours before long-haul flights and by being ready for security with their compliant liquids and electronics out of their hand luggage."