US Workers Strike as London Heathrow Removes Passenger Cap

Photo: American Airliens ground staff load an American Airlines flight at Heathrow. Photo Credit: Heathrow Airport
Photo: American Airliens ground staff load an American Airlines flight at Heathrow. Photo Credit: Heathrow Airport

LONDON – Within days of Heathrow Airport announcing their passenger cap would be removed, American Airlines engineers based at the London airport have announced strike action.

It comes after American Airlines proposed a three-year drop in pay to Unite the Union workers. Workers overwhelmingly voted in favour of the strikes, with only 2% of members being against industrial action.

Possible Disruption

The planned strike action could now put Heathrow in a very compromising position after it agreed with its operating airlines that the disruption that took place over the summer could not happen again, yet only hours after they remove their passenger numbers cap in preparation for winter service, the union plans a strike.

The deal proposed by American Airlines, technicians would receive a 5.3% pay rise, with crew chiefs receiving 3.8%. In the second year, workers would receive a sum of money rather than an overall pay rise.

Finally, in the third year, there would be a pay freeze. As of September 14, the UK Office for National Statistics reports UK inflation is at 12.3% overall. The proposed pay deal by American Airlines would nowhere near keep up with the current cost of living issues in the UK.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Amid a cost-of-living emergency, American Airlines is proposing that our members accept a three-year pay cut. That is simply unacceptable.  As the strength of this vote shows, our members are rock solid and ready to strike for a fair deal.”

The workers at Heathrow that will be striking form part of American Airlines’ skilled workforce. They’re certified engineers from the FAA after several years of training, including type-specific training.

Unite regional officer Joe McGowan said: “American Airlines passengers are facing severe disruption because the company is offering a significant pay cut. American Airlines must return to the negotiation table with an offer our members can accept.”

American Airlines made revenues of £11.8 billion in Q2 2022.

Graham continued “American Airlines has boasted of its strong growth and post-pandemic rebound so let’s see that translate into a better deal for the workforce.”

More Carriers Follow

Unite the Union members working for United Airlines at Heathrow are also voting over strike action at the London hub. In a similar state to American, United is also offering pay deals to their workers below inflation.

In United’s case, they reported a quarterly profit of $329 million.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham said: “United Airlines is offering workers a pay cut when it can afford to pay its staff fairly. To make matters worse, bosses want to tear up a long-standing agreement barring the use of outsourced workers.”

“These are red lines the workers won’t cross so the airline faces the prospect of steadfast industrial action. Unite members have their union’s complete backing to protect their pay, terms and conditions.”

Alongside pay, United are also proposing to allow the use of outsourced labour or third parties. This would go against a deal currently in place between United and Unite.

Unite regional officer Clare Keogh said: “Unite has a long-standing commitment from United Airlines to prioritise direct employment. Now management wants to open the floodgates to agency and outsourced labour.”

“Our members want fair pay and they won’t allow a race to the bottom. The workforce feels they have no other choice except to begin an industrial action ballot. It’s time for United Airlines to think again.”

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