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BA and other Heathrow flights over half-term to be disrupted by Menzies Aviation strike

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British Airways services from London Heathrow are likely to be disrupted over the half term break due to strike action at Menzies Aviation.

The Unite union has called a strike from Friday 11th February to Sunday 13th February inclusive.

It provides ground handling and refuelling services at Heathrow, although it only provides refuelling services to British Airways.

Menzies Aviation Heathrow strike action

You can read more on the Unite union’s website here although this is clearly a one-sided view of events.

Staff are striking as a result of a decision by Menzies to not offer pay rises this year. According to the Unite union, over 800 staff at Menzies were fired during the pandemic and then rehired on weaker contracts. The union claims that, in the most extreme cases, staff took pay cuts of £9,000 per year.

As well as refusing pay rises for 2022, Unite claims that Menzies has also refused to meet outstanding pay rises for 2020 and 2021.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:

Menzies cynically used the cover of the pandemic to fire and rehire its workers to boost long-term profits and it is now refusing to even consider a pay rise. Given the appalling treatment Menzies workers have received from their employer it is little surprise that they felt they had no option but to take strike action.

“Bad employers need to be aware that Unite is wholly committed to defending and protecting the pay and conditions of its members. Unite’s members at Menzies will receive the union’s full and complete support until this dispute is resolved.”

Menzies aviation heathrow strike

Which airlines work with Menzies Aviation at Heathrow?

Menzies Aviation is a two pronged business.

One leg provides ground handling and passenger services, including check-in staff. Customers include American, Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss, China Airlines, Air Canada, Croatian, Eurowings, Icelandair, Finnair, Aer Lingus, Egyptair, Qantas and Loganair.

The other leg of the business handles refuelling for British Airways.

How disruptive will the strike be?

Unite is promising “severe disruption”.

For British Airways, which only uses Menzies for refuelling, it may be more manageable. BA have told us they are “working closely with our partners to understand how any industrial action may affect our operations.” The majority of short haul flights will able to refuel at their destination. It is obviously a different story for long haul flights.

However, Menzies is not the only refuelling contractor at Heathrow, so it is possible that other companies could cover.

The situation may be worse for other airlines who may find, for example, that they have no check-in or baggage handling staff for three days.

In a statement, Heathrow said:

“We are aware of an industrial action ballot for Menzies employees who support airlines operating out of Heathrow.

It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the ongoing discussions they are having with their employer. As always, we remain in constant dialogue with all partners who operate at Heathrow and will continue to do everything we can to ensure that passengers can enjoy a safe and reliable journey.”

As usual in these circumstances, a lot can change in the next 10 days and it is likely that some sort of postponement or agreement is reached. Even if the strike goes ahead, BA passengers may come off better than others.

Comments (58)

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  • Paul says:

    I am struck by the comments here today. There was a time such action would have seen people calling for the staff to be boiled in oil.

    Hire and rehire particularly when Menzies also took advantage of furlough is scandalous.

    • Laura says:

      I think current circumstances have softened people’s attitudes to such action. Legacy staff at BA in addition to pay cut have been promises no pay rises until market rate catches up.

    • Londonsteve says:

      Times have changed. I used to work for an international investment bank and was a devoted Telegraph reader. I believed in de-regulated bucaeering free markets to generate wealth and the power of the trickle down effect. I moved onto another large bank and then worked at yet another well-known investment bank. I witnessed first hand financial meltdown of 2007 caused by greed and negligent regulation. I left the financial sector a jaded individual and realised it was a lie and my role was window dressing. Like many people, post financial crash I never had a real pay rise. I am now an enthusiastic proponent of socialism and believe that Scandianivian social democracy had it right all along while in the Anglo-Saxon world we have been gaslighted into believing that a system that serves the upper 5% is in our communal interests. Never again. And I consider myself to be relatively lucky!

  • Ian says:

    It seems that only London have half term that week. The rest of the country appears to be the week starting 21st.

    • Rob says:

      Yes, London is w/c 14th.

    • The real Swiss Tony says:

      No, we have that week as well, although the surrounding counties are the week after, which has meant some bargain airfares to be had. Driving an hour North to BHX got me easyjet to Geneva for one fifth (!!) of the price of a BA flight out of Heathrow, which is one hour to the South.

    • Andrew. says:

      When you say country? Guess you mean England rather than UK?

      The dates tie in with the school holidays of John Menzies staff in the Capital and most other Scottish councils.

      • Spelling Bee says:

        Counties not countries

        • Andrew. says:

          Are you being a typical hate ridden little Englander mocking Scots?

          Or did you not realise that I was replying to Ian?

          • tony says:

            How many times do we have to put up with wee Jimmie Cranky telling us that Scotland IS a country, then when someone reinforces that, they’re deemed to be a “little Englander”.


    • NorthernLass says:

      It’s w/c 14th in the north – it’s always that week.

      • ianwardz says:

        Depends where you mean by up north.
        We are in North Yorkshire and that is 21st.
        Generally it seems that most of England, outside of London is 21st with some exceptions.
        I was just pointing out that the impact is not on everyone’s half term, I didn’t intend to cause any cross border disputes 😁

    • Wally1976 says:

      Yes from a purely selfish point of view I was very glad to read the detail of the article and find out this is a week before my wife and I travel (in our half term)! Realise the action could easily be postponed a week or drag on though. And sympathy to the workers involved.

  • Charlie Whiskey says:

    Rob, you say that: “ The company has called a strike ….”
    I think you mean that the Unite Union has done so …

  • Dr Dr says:

    I) If a refueller has had up to a £9000 pay cut and they are not out begging, how much were they being paid beforehand?
    2) And the lesson is, do NOT buy in services from third parties. Keep it all in house!

    • Nick says:

      For (2), if you’re a small airline at heathrow with only flights at specific times of day, why would you hire, train and retain a team of baggage handlers or refuellers? What are you going to do with them the rest of the time? Would it perhaps be better to team up with other airlines for economies of scale and have a specialist working across them? Oh, wait…

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      9,000 more

  • Davd says:

    Menzies are not the only refuellers at Heathrow.

    • Rob says:

      Of course. The others are unlikely to have huge amounts of spare capacity, however, either in terms of staff or equipment.

    • Rhys says:

      …which is exactly what we said in the article!

    • Lady London says:

      They’re also big at LGW and I think, possibly still at Luton.

      Good luck to the staff Menzies is taking the p

  • Londonsteve says:

    Go lads! Employees are, finally, having their moment in the limelight after 20 years in the shadows due to limitless recruitment from the EU, financial meltdown, followed by zero real salary growth then Brexit and Covid induced deep freezes. The boot is firmly on the other foot and they are minded to give their abusive employers a kicking. UK salaries are lagging significantly behind large parts of the developed world and the ratio between salaries and living expenses places the UK somewhere in central Europe, not amongst its western European or US peer group.

  • Alex Sm says:

    Is Menzies pronounced as [mingis]? I got confused

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