FIFA World Cup: Heathrow workers to vote on strike action

Heathrow airport could see “severe disruption” during the FIFA World Cup, a union has warned, as ground workers threaten to strike over pay.

Up to 700 ground staff – represented by Unite union – will take part in a ballot over potential strike action in coming weeks.

If approved, the industrial action would begin in mid-November, just as the football World Cup opens in Qatar.

“Strike action will inevitably cause severe disruption and delays across Heathrow, especially for football supporters travelling to the World Cup,” warned Unite regional officer Kevin Hall.

Why are Heathrow workers considering a strike?

The workers are employed by Dnata (Dubai National Air Travel Agency) and Menzies Aviation, and include ground handling, airside transport and cargo staff.

“Both Dnata and Menzies can easily afford to make our members a fair pay offer and should do so,” claimed Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

“No matter how the employers present the offers on the table, they are substantial real-terms pay cuts and unacceptable to our members.”

Both operators refute these claims.

Menzies Aviation president Phil Lloyd slammed the unions for “extreme and unnecessary steps”.

“A pay increase of 7 per cent was implemented in January and we wish to continue an open and honest consultation to make a further increase in 2022,” he told Airline Ground Services.

A Dnata spokesperson said that their employees had already received a 10 per cent pay increase in 2021, and have been offered a further 5.5 per cent backdated to April 2021.

Graham claims that existing Dnata and Menzies offers fall well below the rate of inflation, which is currently at a record 12.3 per cent, meaning prices of goods and services are rocketing.

Will the strike disrupt World Cup travel?

The action could wreak havoc on travel plans, Unite warns.

“Qatari Airlines, which has scheduled 10 additional flights a week during the tournament, would be badly affected by any industrial action,” they said in a statement.

“Other leading airlines that will be hit heavily by potential strike action include Virgin, Singapore Airlines, Cathay-Pacific and Emirates.”

However, Menzies Aviation told Airline Ground Services that most of its ground workers are not affiliated with the union, and so would not strike.

Qatar expects to host more than 1.2 million tourists over the course of the World Cup.

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