Planned strikes at Heathrow this week have been suspended

Jul 21, 2022

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At last, some good news for U.K. airports.

The strike facing London Heathrow (LHR) this week has been suspended, it was revealed today, as Unite the Union shared that refuelling workers were being asked ballot on a “substantially improved” pay offer put forward.

Prior to the new offer, Unite said its members would stage a 72-hour walkout beginning at 5 am on Thursday 21 July and ending at 4:59 am on Sunday 24 July.

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The 50 workers that were set to walk out are employed by Aviation Fuel Services (AFS), which is responsible for half of the non-British Airways traffic at Britain’s busiest airport. As the workers are not on Heathrow’s payroll, it means Heathrow has no control over the dispute.

Short of the eleventh-hour intervention agreement between the union and AFS,  the Thursday to Sunday strike was set to cause “severe disruption and delays at Heathrow”, Unite the Union said at the time.

“Unite will be providing its members at AFS with its unstinting support until the company makes a pay offer which meets members’ expectations and this dispute is resolved.”

Airlines that would have been affected, had action gone ahead, include Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Delta, United, American Airlines, KLM, Air France and Singapore Airlines.

Related: Which trains are still running next week and which ones are not?

AFS is a joint venture whose partners include oil giant BP, Total Energies, Q8 Aviation and Valero Energy.

Unite claims that AFS has not given its staff a pay rise for three years, despite soaring inflation and a cost-of-living crisis that is squeezing households across the country.

In “real terms”, this equates to a wage reduction of 15.5%, the union said. It previously rejected a 10% increase offered by AFS.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “AFS is wholly owned by incredibly wealthy energy companies who are entirely able to provide our members with a decent pay increase. This is yet another example of energy companies boosting profits at the expense of workers.

Related: Brace yourself for two more major UK rail strikes in August

This news comes a week after Heathrow asked airlines to stop selling tickets to help the airport cope amid an industry-wide staffing crisis that has cast a shadow over the summer holiday season.

The crisis is largely the result of job and wage cuts meted out on workforces by airports, airlines and their aviation contractors during the pandemic. And now the travel is getting back on its feet, many workers are demanding that pay cuts be reversed and wages improved.

Related: UK government and CAA confront Heathrow over controversial passenger cap

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Atkin.

Featured image by aviation-images.com/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

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