Support the Heathrow security strikers!
Heathrow Terminals 1, 2, 3 tube station sign: Creative Commons
By Sacha Ismail, Safe Landing https://www.safe-landing.org
On 7 June, Unite the Union announced that its members working in security at Heathrow Airport would strike for 31 days over the summer as part of their campaign for a real pay rise.(Strike dates in June, July and August.)
On 26 May workers at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 voted overwhelmingly (85%) to join the strike. Almost 600 Unite members at Terminal 3 will now join the 1,400 from Terminal 5, Terminal 4 and “campus” (airport-wide security) who have taken 18 days of strike action since March.
Terminal 2 is also balloting. Immediately, the entry of Terminal 3 into the strike potentially makes a huge difference to its impact.
This is an impressive fight that the labour movement and climate activists must rally around.
Why Heathrow workers are striking
Under pressure from Unite’s campaign, privatised airport operator Heathrow Airports Ltd has shifted to offering 10% plus a £1,000 lump sum. The workers have made clear a one-off payment is unacceptable – “Dump the lump”! – and demanded more.
With surging inflation, 10% means not even standing still; and this after huge real-term wage cuts. Unite estimates that since 2017, the real pay of Heathrow Airport Ltd’s workforce has fallen by an average of 24%. The company fired its entire workforce at the height of Covid in 2020, re-employing many on worse terms.
Heathrow security officers get £26,000 a year, plus a £4,000 shift allowance – which the union estimates is over £5,000 lower than even comparable roles at Gatwick and Stansted. This is for a difficult and exhausting job in which nine out of ten have told the union they are permanently tired at work.
Meanwhile Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye has increased his own salary by 88% – from £800,000 to £1.5 million! The Civil Aviation Authority predicts that over the next five years, Heathrow Airports Ltd will pay £1.5 billion in dividends.
The Heathrow workers are displaying inspiring determination for their just demands. The whole labour movement should rally round and help them win.
So should the climate movement. A highly organised, empowered aviation workforce is essential to gaining some control over the sector’s bosses – the same people driving reckless expansion, at the expense of the climate as well as aviation workers – and starting to force rational transformation of the industry.
Strikes like this help to develop and demonstrate the power of worker-led action. Real climate justice must also mean social justice and justice for workers in high-carbon sectors. The only way workers can ensure the transition to a low-carbon economy is well-planned, democratically-controlled and fair is by building union strength and the power of collective bargaining. Through this lens: every industrial dispute is a climate dispute, but particularly in certain sectors like aviation.
It’s vital that we demonstrate the power of strikes and collective bargaining to exert leverage over business leaders to listen to the voice of workers: whether over immediate issues such as pay, or more systemic ones related to the low-carbon transition of air travel.
Aviation workers’ organisation Safe Landing has been organising solidarity for the Heathrow strikes. We have taken solidarity photos at recent events including XR’s The Big One protests https://safe-landing.org/the-big-one, the We Make Tomorrow climate conference https://safe-landing.org/wmt-conference-may2023 and the conference of civil service (and aviation) union PCS https://safe-landing.org/pcs-conference-2023, and visited the picket line https://safe-landing.org/heathrow-security-strikes.
What you can do
- Take a solidarity photo and tweet it with the hashtag #HeathrowStrike (if you want one of our “Solidarity with Heathrow security strikers” posters, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Look out for strike dates soon and make plans to visit the picket line – always at the roundabout on Nene Road, London TW6 2AU
- We have asked for an email address for solidarity messages and photos and speaker requests – meanwhile, send them to email@example.com and we will pass them on.