Families face a holiday ‘nightmare’ as hard-Left union threatens Heathrow strike during February half-term
- Hundreds of staff at Heathrow Airport are threatening to walk off the job
- Refuelling staff and baggage handlers are walking out from February 11 over pay
- Unite the union wants retrospective pay rises for their members at the airline
Families face a holiday ‘nightmare’ after staff at Heathrow Airport threatened to strike during next month’s school half-term.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that hundreds of refuelling and baggage handlers have voted to walk out for three days from Friday, February 11, in a dispute over pay.
The decision is a blow to families who have raced to book last-minute holidays abroad after two years of Covid misery. It comes as new EU rules, based on passengers’ vaccination or recovery status rather than their country of origin, are set to come into effect – making it easier for Britons to travel.
British Airways staff are planning to go on strike threatening half-term holidays, it is claimed
British Airways staff at Heathrow Airport are threatening to go on strike for more money
Heathrow workers are employed by Menzies Aviation who provide baggage handling services
The Heathrow workers are employed by Menzies Aviation, which is among the firms responsible for refuelling British Airways aircraft at Heathrow. It also provides baggage handling services for several major carriers including American Airlines, Lufthansa, Icelandair, Qantas and Aer Lingus.
Menzies is likely to struggle to find replacement staff to fill the gap because of extensive security vetting process for airport employees to combat terrorism. There may also be higher than normal absences due to employees catching Covid or having to self-isolate.
The MoS first revealed the strike threat earlier this month. More than half the 400 staff belonging to the hard-Left Unite union voted in favour.
Sources said long-haul flights were more likely to be affected because incoming aircraft would need to be fully refuelled before returning to the skies.
Unite wants retrospective pay rises for 2020 and 2021. It argues that rivals, including Swissport and Cobalt, agreed similar pay deals with their workers.
The union has previously accused Menzies of ‘firing and rehiring’ 810 workers during the pandemic – laying off employees and hiring them again on worse terms.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘Menzies cynically used the cover of the pandemic to fire and rehire its workers to boost long-term profits and it is now refusing to even consider a pay rise.
Unite wants retrospective pay rises for 2020 and 2021. It argues that rivals, including Swissport and Cobalt, agreed similar pay deals with their workers
‘Given the appalling treatment Menzies workers have received from their employer, it is little surprise that they felt they had no option but to take strike action.’
Unite regional officer Kevin Hall added: ‘The strike action will inevitably cause severe disruption and delays throughout Heathrow, but it is taken as a last resort and is entirely of Menzies’s own making.’
Last night, Oli Dannatt, boss of online travel firm Ski Yodl and Sir Richard Branson’s former ski instructor, said: ‘These strikes could be another nightmare for families who have had to deal with so many changing travel restrictions in recent months.’
Menzies said only a relatively small proportion of its Heathrow workers had decided to strike. It employs more than 1,200 staff at the airport. More than 200 of the 400 Unite members in Menzies’s workforce opted to strike, but it is unclear how many will decide to walk out next month.
Last night, a Menzies spokesman said it was ‘very disappointed’ at the vote but insisted that it was ‘confident that we will continue to provide the required services’.
A spokesman for Heathrow Airport said: ‘We are aware of an industrial action ballot for Menzies employees who support airlines operating out of Heathrow.
‘It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the ongoing discussions they are having with their employer.
‘As always, we remain in constant dialogue with all partners who operate at Heathrow and will continue to do everything we can to ensure that passengers can enjoy a safe and reliable journey.’
Bosses beware… Red Sharon’s new wave of militancy sweeps UK
Hard-line Left-winger Sharon Graham was the surprise winner of the Unite leadership election to replace the retiring ‘Red Len’ McCluskey last year.
Graham’s campaign, which was backed by the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party, saw her take almost 5,000 more votes than her nearest rival.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters from the far-Left Momentum group were among the first to congratulate Graham on her victory.
Hard-line Left-winger Sharon Graham was the surprise winner of the Unite leadership election to replace the retiring ‘Red Len’ McCluskey last year
The tough-talking trade unionist issued a blunt warning to Sir Keir Starmer that she plans to cut Unite’s ties with Labour, declaring: ‘No politician is coming to save us.’
In December, she axed Unite’s donations to Labour, claiming that the union’s millions would be better spent on ‘Left-wing causes’.
Since her election last August, the 53-year-old has emerged as the face of a new wave of union militancy sweeping Britain, often appearing on picket lines.
So far she has led strikes by hospital porters and cleaners in London, bus drivers in Manchester, bin lorry drivers in Coventry, scaffolders and steelworkers.
Last week, Graham announced Unite was balloting workers at 321 councils for strike action against what she called the Government’s ‘pathetic’ 1.75 per cent pay rise for local authority staff.
Graham was born in Hammersmith, West London, to an Irish mother and Geordie father who worked in the hotel industry. She still lives in the area today with husband Jack, who is also a Unite trade unionist, and their ten-year-old son Tom.
She left her local comprehensive school at 16 and went out on her first strike a year later when she staged an unofficial walkout at the restaurant where she was working as a waitress.
After 20 years in Unite – firstly in the Transport and General Workers’ Union before the merger to create Unite – Ms Graham was put in charge of the union’s ‘organising and leverage’ unit.
Her team was accused of using ‘bully boy’ tactics to put pressure on company bosses caught up in disputes by targeting their family and associates.
However, she made no apology for going after bosses personally. ‘Employers don’t bother to think of families when they fire workers at will,’ her spokesman said.
On her election as leader of Unite, which has 1.2 million members, Graham said: ‘Bad bosses take note. A strong Unite is the best defence that our members can have – my focus now is to build that strength.’