Heathrow workers threatened with sack if they reject 'voluntary' pay cuts
Heathrow has reported a significant drop in passenger numbers in February and March. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters
Workers at Heathrow airport have been told they could be dismissed if they do not accept voluntary pay cuts, as most international air traffic has ground to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Staff at Britain’s busiest airport who are not union members have been told in a memo from the company to accept a 15% reduction in pay, otherwise “dismissal or reinstatement might be the final step”
The message was sent to thousands of staff by Paula Stannett, the airport’s chief people officer, who warned workers the business expected “everyone to play their part”.
Stannett wrote: “There will be consequences if colleagues do not accept the revised terms as it will mean that we have to make further job cuts. It will also have consequences for those colleagues who do not wish to participate.”
Members of the Unite union employed by the London airport, including security guards and firefighters, have already accepted a 10% reduction to their pay for nine months.
Heathrow reported a significant fall in passenger numbers in February and March, and said demand continued to decline. The amount of cargo passing through Heathrow also fell during that period, as the virus impacted global trade.
On Tuesday, the transport minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, told MPs air traffic volumes were down 92% compared with last year.
The airport blamed a slump in demand for Asian and European routes, regions where airlines have significantly cut back or halted flights because of the pandemic. It has closed two of its four terminals and one runway.
A Heathrow spokesperson said the business was trying to reduce its cost base by cancelling executive pay, freezing recruitment and reviewing all capital projects.
“Heathrow is prioritising the protection of jobs while working to keep Britain’s front door safely open for people requiring repatriation and vital medical supplies needed during this crisis,” the spokesperson said.
“It is only right that similar pay reductions are taken on by everyone in the business as we fight to ringfence as many jobs in the future and play our part in protecting as many colleagues as possible.”
Amid falling passenger traffic, Heathrow says it has increased its capacity to handle cargo and is calling on airlines and freight companies to consider importing more goods by air.
The airport says 40% of the UK’s pharmaceutical products, including medicines, vaccines and respirators, are imported via Heathrow.
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