Strikes: Are we in for another summer of travel chaos?

Passengers wait in line to check in at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport, London, as security guard members of the Unite union take strike action in a pay dispute with action likely to disrupt school holiday travel. The guards are beginning ten days of planned continuous strike action across the Heathrow campus ending in the early hours of Easter Monday. Picture date: Friday March 31, 2023.
Passengers wait in line to check in at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport as security guards launch fresh strikes. Credit: PA

By Daniel Boal, ITV News Multimedia Producer

Holiday disruption could be set to continue over another summer, as staff shortages and freshly announced strike action threaten travel to and from UK airports.

Fears of more travel chaos come after around 175 British Airways flights were recently cancelled on what experts anticipated to be the busiest day for UK air travel since before the pandemic.

Some 20,000 passengers were thought to have been affected by the cancellations just before the May bank holiday weekend.

Strikes by security guards at Heathrow airport had been scheduled to take place throughout June, July and August but have been postponed due to an improved pay offer.

However, fears still loom that holidays could be disrupted over yet another summer, following years of pandemic travel restrictions.

Strikes affecting airports

Strikes by security guards at Heathrow Airport planned for June 24 and June 25 have been postponed following an improved pay offer, Unite union have said.

Security officers based at Terminal 3 were due to strike with their colleagues from Terminal 5 and campus security, who have already taken industrial action.

The workers were scheduled on strike on June 24, 25, 28, 29 and 30, and July 14-16, 21-24, 28-31 and August 4-7, 11-14, 18-20 and 24-27.

More than 2,000 Unite members could still walk out for 29 days across the summer, if the latest offer is rejected by the union.

Security guard members of the Unite union on the picket line at Heathrow Airport. Credit: PA

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We are pleased to have agreed a pay deal which unions are recommending their members to accept.

“This a great deal for colleagues, giving them two years of guaranteed above inflation pay rises, alongside further benefits and assurances that they told us they wanted.

“We encourage them to accept the deal so that everyone can have certainty and the backdated pay increase that so many have been waiting for.

“While a ballot takes place, the first weekend of strikes has been cancelled.”

Military personnel were drafted in to check passports at UK airports including Heathrow during Border Force strikes in December.

Consumer Editor Chris Choi analyses how much disruption could be caused by 2,000 security guards striking during the busiest part of the year at Heathrow

Holidaymakers flying out of Glasgow Airport could face delays and disruption after Unite confirmed that its members based at the airport will be balloted on strike action.

It comes after a previous pay offer to OCS Group UK Limited staff, who are represented by the union and based at the airport, was thrown out.

Train strikes

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said 20,000 of its members at 14 train companies will walk out on July 20, 22 and 29.

Government officials have hit back, accusing the union of “targeting two iconic international sporting events” by coinciding with the fourth and fifth Ashes Test and The Open golf championship.

The RMT said train operators had failed to make a new pay offer to resolve the long-running dispute.

The RMT said that despite repeated statements that it was willing to enter further negotiations, neither the rail operators nor the government have asked it to any meetings.

Train drivers at Avanti West Coast will strike on July 2. Credit: PA

Drivers at Avanti West Coast will strike on July 2, while drivers employed by London North Eastern Railway (LNER) will refuse to work overtime from July 1 until further notice.

Aslef said the dispute with Avanti West Coast is over sick pay changes, which the company is accused of trying to “force through without agreement”.

LNER is accused of failing to adhere to “agreed procedures”.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “It is deeply regrettable that Aslef members have been forced to take this action but our members will not stand by and allow our agreed terms and conditions to be violated by the train operating companies.

“The companies know how to avoid this action – it’s by honouring their agreements and negotiating fairly with our members.”

Bus driver strikes

Arriva bus drivers are also set to go on strike, in a dispute over pay.

Unite said more than 1,700 of its members employed by Arriva in London will walk out on June 20 and 21 and June 27 and 28 after rejecting a 7% pay offer.

It says this is in effect a real terms pay cut as the real inflation rate (RPI) stands at 11.4%.

Unite said if the dispute is not resolved, further strikes will be called.

The strikes will predominantly affect routes in north and east London.

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