Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) was today (Friday 2 August) warned against opting to pay millions of pounds in compensation to airlines for cancelled flights and causing passenger misery, rather than going the extra mile to give hardworking staff a fair pay rise.

The warning from Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, comes ahead of expected crunch talks at the conciliation service Acas later today, with planned strike action for Monday 5 August and Tuesday 6 August looking likely to go ahead.

Strike contingencies by Heathrow Airport include the airport ordering airlines to cancel flights under procedures for temporarily reduced capacity. Through the procedures, Unite understands that airlines are set to receive £26 per passenger on board every cancelled flight in compensation from the airport.

Unite estimates that approximately 88,000 passengers in total could be disrupted if 20 per cent of flights are cancelled on both days of the strike action, amounting to compensation of £2.3 million for the airlines affected. The total bill could reach £4.6 million if a further two days of planned action on Friday 23 August and Saturday 24 August go ahead.

Indications from a consultative ballot point an overwhelming rejection of a revised pay offer from Heathrow Airport. Unite suspended a two-day strike for Friday 26 July and Saturday 27 July to consult with over 4,000 of its members involved in the dispute at Heathrow.

The indicative vote of security guards, firefighters, engineers, passenger service operatives and passenger service drivers, and all members involved in the dispute closes at 17:00 today (Friday). If the offer is rejected as expected, talks at averting Monday and Tuesday’s strike will begin immediately.

The dispute comes amid deepening anger over pay disparities between workers doing the same job at the airport and the ‘massive’ pay package of Heathrow Airport’s chief executive officer John Holland-Kaye. Last year the Heathrow boss received a 103.2 per cent pay increase with his basic remuneration package rising from £2.097 million in 2017 to £4.2 million in 2018.

It takes Mr Holland-Kaye around two days to earn what some of the lowest paid Heathrow security guards earn in a year.

Commenting Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King said: “All the indications are pointing to an overwhelming rejection by our members of the revised offer which, in reality, offers little more than the £3.75 extra a day that the original offer did for many workers.

“If members do reject the pay offer and Heathrow bosses dig their heels in, then there is a risk the airport is seen to prefer paying millions in compensation to airlines and needlessly causing misery for the travelling public, instead of sorting the dispute by going the extra mile and giving its workforce a decent pay rise.

“Our low paid members will sacrifice a day’s pay if they go on strike and are only too aware of the disruption it will cause. However, they are at a point where they have had enough with being given crumbs while shareholders pocket billions in dividends and the chief executive enjoys a pay rise of over 100 per cent.

“To add insult to injury they are also having to contend with widening pay disparities leading to airport security guards employed after 2014 earning up to £6,000 less than colleagues hired before that date.

“If, as expected, our members reject the revised pay offer, then we would urge Heathrow Airport’s bosses to take the sensible option to end this dispute. Rather than pay millions in compensation to airlines and punish workers and passengers alike, talk with us at Acas and use that money for an improved pay offer which better reflects the hard work of the workers who keep the airport running safely and smoothly.

“If Heathrow refuses to increase the money on offer we have to start wondering if, for them, this is really about money or is it about just taking on Unite?”