Heathrow Airport Refuellers to Strike for 72 Hours, Potentially Disrupting Flights

Heathrow refuellers to strike for 72 hours in May, potentially disrupting flights for 35 airlines. Union accuses employer of reducing benefits for new staff, sparking labor dispute during peak travel period.

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Heathrow Airport Refuellers to Strike for 72 Hours, Potentially Disrupting Flights

Heathrow Airport Refuellers to Strike for 72 Hours, Potentially Disrupting Flights

Refuellers at Heathrow Airport are set to strike for 72 hours starting on May 4, 2023, potentially disrupting flights for 35 airlines, including major carriers like Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France. The strike action, called by the Unite union, is in response to changes in terms and conditions imposed by their employer, AFS Aviation, a joint venture between oil and gas companies, which has reduced pension and sickness benefits for new staff recruited since January 2024. "AFS is attacking the most vulnerable new staff, creating a two-tier workforce which represents a race to the bottom for employees across the company," said Unite in a statement.

The strike is expected to cause severe disruption to flights during the busy early May bank holiday weekend. Unite has warned that the strike risks aircraft being delayed, disrupted, or grounded due to the inability to refuel. Around 50 refuellers employed by AFS are involved in the dispute. The union has accused AFS of "appalling bully-boy tactics" and vowed to back its members on the picket line to prevent the attack on their conditions from becoming the norm.

Why this matters: The potential strike at Heathrow Airport during a peak travel period could lead to significant disruptions for passengers and airlines. It highlights ongoing labor disputes in the aviation industry as workers push back against changes to their terms and conditions.

Heathrow Airport is aware of the potential strike and is working with AFS to support their contingency plans for the airlines they provide fuel to during the strike period. Over 2,600 outbound flights and 583,665 seats are scheduled at Heathrow between May 3 and May 6, making it one of the busiest travel periods. A Heathrow spokesperson said, "We are aware of proposed industrial action by AFS colleagues and we will support them and their airlines with their contingency plans to ensure there is no impact on the airport's operation."

Key Takeaways

  • Heathrow refuellers to strike for 72 hours from May 4, disrupting 35 airlines.
  • Strike due to reduced pension and sickness benefits for new staff by employer AFS.
  • Strike expected to cause severe disruption during busy May bank holiday weekend.
  • Around 50 refuellers employed by AFS involved in the dispute.
  • Heathrow working with AFS to support contingency plans for airlines during strike.