Heathrow: As security staff strike again, what will the effects be?

Heathrow airport is set for “May mayhem” as security staff walk out again, according to the Unite union. The eight days of strikes are timed to coincide with busy family travel dates as well as the peak days around the coronation.

These are the key questions and answers.

Who is walking out, and when?

Around 1,400 security officers who work for Heathrow Airport Ltd will walk out for three separate spells: 4-6, 9-10 and 25-27 May.

The staff are employed on security searches at Heathrow Terminal 5 and also at airfield checkpoints – this is a unit known as “Campus”.

Terminal 5 handles most British Airways flights. The other three terminals – 2, 3 and 4 – will not be affected.

Will it really mean ‘May mayhem’?

That is the claim by Unite. The union also says: “This will cause inevitable disruption and delays at the airport.” But this round of industrial action follows a 10-day strike from 31 March to Easter Sunday which saw little impact on travellers’ plans.

During that spell, British Airways was told by Heathrow to cancel one in 20 flights. Sales of seats on other outbound flights were blocked.

It is thought likely the same will happen in the second round of strikes.

A spokesperson for the airport said: “We kept Heathrow running smoothly during the first 10 days of Unite’s failed industrial action, and passengers can have confidence that we will do so again this time.

“We will not let Unite disrupt the flow of visitors to the UK during such an important period for the country.”

Will my flight be cancelled?

If it is on a British Airways route with multiple daily departures – such as UK domestic services and European flights to destinations such as Dublin, Nice, Geneva and Dusseldorf – it might be.

Long-haul departures should be unaffected. All other terminals, including BA departures from Terminal 3, will operate normally. No other UK airports are involved in this pay dispute.

The Independent has asked British Airways for a comment on the strike announcement.

What’s behind the dispute?

Pay. Heathrow says it is offering a 10 per cent pay increase. In talks last week, airport bosses offered a further £1,150 lump sum. But the union turned it down, without putting the offer to members.

Unite’s regional coordinating officer, Wayne King, said: “This dispute is a direct result of Heathrow’s stubborn refusal to make an offer that meets our members’ expectations.

“Our members have been crystal clear they are seeking a substantial permanent increase in pay. A small one-off lump sum payment will not alleviate the financial pressures our members are facing on a daily basis.”

The union says the average Heathrow security officer earns a basic salary of £26,000 plus a £4,000 shift allowance. It claims the staff have seen a 24 per cent cut in real terms since 2017.

Earlier this month, Unite said a survey of security officers it had undertaken revealed that 35 per cent were planning to leave as a result of the poor pay and stressful work.

How long will this continue?

The Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, warned: “This dispute is bound to escalate with more workers being balloted and disruption set to continue throughout the summer.”

Why won’t Heathrow just offer more?

Compared with the damage the strikes cause, it would arguably be cheaper to increase the pay offer by a couple of percentage points.

But the airport’s bosses are keen to make it clear that they will not be “held to ransom” by relatively small groups of workers.

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