London's Heathrow Airport is facing a summer of travel chaos after 2,000 security workers announced 31 days of weekend strikes starting June 24. Passengers of U.S. carriers American, United and Delta are among those who could be affected. File Photo by Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE
June 7 (UPI) -- Passengers using London's Heathrow Airport are facing a summer of travel chaos after 2,000 unionized security staff voted to expand strike action in an ongoing dispute over pay.
The "major escalation" of the industrial action, according to the Unite union, means the operations of two of the airport's five terminals could be impacted virtually every weekend from June to August.
The disruption, which so far has been limited to British Airways' within its own dedicated terminal, Terminal 5, could now also hit Terminal 3 used by United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Qatar after workers there joined the strike.
The 31 days of strikes, starting Saturday, June 24 and running through the end-of-summer Bank Holiday weekend 24-27 August, coincide with the school holidays in Britain. The first two weekends of July are the only weekends when no industrial action will be taking place.
A 10.1% pay offer has been rejected with the union arguing it is insufficient to compensate for pay levels below that of workers at other London airports and that have fallen by almost a quarter in real terms since 2017.
"Unite is putting Heathrow on notice that strike action at the airport will continue until it makes a fair pay offer to its workers," said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham. "This is an incredibly wealthy company, which this summer is anticipating bumper profits and an executive pay bonanza. It's also expected to pay out huge dividends to shareholders, yet its workers can barely make ends meet and are paid far less than workers at other airports."
Heathrow, which disputes Unite's claims regarding pay, pointed to the fact that during the pandemic when air travel ground to a virtual standstill it made no layoffs of frontline staff, unlike the majority of organizations.
The airport said that it had managed the Terminal 5 strikes during the Easter and May half-term holiday getaways, in a way that had averted significant disruption.
"Unite has already tried and failed to disrupt the airport with unnecessary strikes on some of our busiest days and we continue to build our plans to protect journeys during any future action," said an airport spokesman.
"Passengers can rest assured that we will do everything we can to minimize strike disruption so they can enjoy their hard-earned summer holidays."