Thousands of workers at London Heathrow airport have voted to take strike action in December over the operator’s proposals to cut costs amid the coronavirus downturn.

The Unite union describes the “targeted strike action” as a response to “plans to fire and rehire its 4,000 workers on vastly reduced pay”.

The announcement follows months of discussions – initiated by the airport operator when the severity of the current crisis became clear – which culminated in Unite’s decision to ballot its members on strike action in mid-October, claiming that Heathrow had rejected its latest proposals.

Unite states that the action ”will involve firefighters, engineers, campus security, baggage operations, operational and airside workers”.


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Two 24-hour strikes are due to take place on 1 December and 14 December respectively. A 48-hour stoppage will take place across 17-18 December, Unite says.

Heathrow said in September that it was starting ”formal consultation with our Unions on our offer, which still guarantees a job at the airport for anyone who wishes to stay with our business”, noting that ”with air travel showing little sign of recovery, these discussions cannot go on indefinitely”.

In June, the airport operator had complained that ”initial proposals put forward by the trade unions do not reflect the severity of the situation and ultimately will limit our ability to protect jobs”.

The threat of strike action comes days after Heathrow warned that the lack of a Covid-19 airport testing regime in the UK has left it “unable to compete” with rival European gateways, after reporting that passenger numbers in October had declined by 82% year on year.

October’s figures represent the “eighth consecutive month of catastrophic decline” at Heathrow, said the airport, with November looking set to be “even worse”.

Heathrow airport has been contacted for comment.