Passengers flying from London’s Heathrow airport face potential disruption over the Easter holiday after security staff began a strike in a row over pay.
More than 1,400 members of the Unite union began 10 days of industrial action on Friday after last-ditch talks to find a deal broke down. The strike will run until Easter Sunday on April 9, taking in one of the busiest travelling periods of the year.
The strike is the latest action to hit the aviation industry in recent months, and follows a series of walkouts by Border Force officials at immigration. Officials at the UK’s Passport Office have also launched a five-week strike starting on April 3.
The security staff involved work at Terminal 5, which is the home of British Airways, and in the wider airport’s cargo operations.
Unite said the walkouts would cause “severe delays”, but Heathrow said passengers would be able to travel as normal, albeit with longer queues at security.
British Airways has cancelled more than 300 short-haul flights over the 10-day period, the equivalent of 5 per cent of its flight schedule.
Heathrow also asked airlines to stop selling tickets over the strike period in order to control the number of passengers moving through the airport.
The airport is deploying an extra 1,000 staff to help passengers through departures, and will only allow travellers to take two items of hand baggage through security. It said operations were running smoothly on Friday morning.
Unite turned down an offer of a 10 per cent pay rise plus £1,150 cash payment, following a 4 per cent rise plus £2,000 one-off payment in 2022, according to Heathrow. The average starting salary for a security officer would be £27,754, including the proposed pay rise.
“We will not let these unnecessary strikes impact the hard-earned holidays of our passengers. Our contingency plans will keep the airport operating as normal throughout” the airport said.
The union said the offer represented a real terms pay cut, and that staff were “unable to make ends meet due to the low wages paid by Heathrow”.
So far, the wave of transport strikes have not contributed to the type of disruption which hit the industry last year, when staffing shortages led to a chaotic series of queues, flight delays and cancellations.
Airport and airline executives are confident their businesses are better prepared than last year following a recruitment drive.
Heathrow has also asked airlines not to add extra flights to their schedules during the peak summer season, to try to limit possible disruption.