On the Picket Line

Airport workers challenge boss demands for 25% wage cut

By Pamela Holmes
and Andrés Mendoza
December 21, 2020

LONDON — Engineers, firefighters and security workers employed by Heathrow Airport Ltd and members of the Unite union took part in a 24-hour walkout at Heathrow Airport Dec. 1 to protest wage cuts and threatened job cuts by the bosses. Some 4,000 workers have already been forced to sign new contracts that include pay cuts of up to 25%. The alternative — lose your job. 

This follows the loss of thousands of jobs at British Airways and wage reductions for those left there. 

“The airport is using the pandemic as cover to force through plans they’ve had for a long time to cut pay. In negotiations the union offered temporary pay cuts, but that wasn’t enough. They want to be a low-wage employer,” Unite regional officer Russ Ball told Militant worker-correspondents. 

Following an 84% vote in favor of industrial action, workers set up picket lines to resist the bosses’ demands. Further stoppages are planned for Dec. 14 and 17-18. 

At the same time, some 850 British Airways cargo workers are balloting for strike action against boss demands for 20% to 25% wage cuts and outsourcing their work to a subcontractor. 

The North Yorkshire police told strikers at the Optare bus factory in Sherburn Nov. 5 to desist from picketing because of the new government coronavirus lockdown regulations. The Unite union filed for urgent judicial review and won Nov. 13. The government was forced to issue guidance to all police forces saying that workers can undertake socially distanced picketing, as it is covered by the right to go to work during the lockdown.