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Heathrow Airport: are there strikes in October? Will flights be cancelled - and will half term getaways be impacted

Warning major UK airport to be at ‘standstill’ over October half term. (Photo: Getty Images)
Warning major UK airport to be at ‘standstill’ over October half term. (Photo: Getty Images)

Passengers jetting off on holidays over the October half term are set to face chaos at a major UK airport as baggage staff have announced strikes. In October 170 baggage staff at Heathrow Airport, who conduct high-end maintenance and servicing of baggage carousels, will strike.

Members of the Unite Union are striking over a pay dispute after they have rejected a below-inflation pay offer. Industrial action was initially planned for this weekend from Friday 6 October until Monday 9 October however this has now been called off.

The next strike planned is action for ten consecutive days starting from 20 October. Unite previously said that if its members decided to launch the strike, it would “bring all terminals and airline baggage handling to a standstill”.

A Heathrow spokesperson told NationalWorld the airport is “aware of proposed industrial action” and it is “working with Vanderlande and other airport partners on contingency plans should it go ahead”. The workers employed by equipment supplier Vanderlande have been treated “appallingly”, according to Unite regional officer, Russ Ball.

Mr Ball added: “Unite’s complete focus on jobs, pay and conditions will mean that our members at Heathrow will receive the union’s unflinching support during their strike action.” According to Unite, Vanderlande Industries has made two below-inflation pay offers of just 5% and 2.5% that have been “roundly rejected” by Unite members.

The union said Vanderlande is “pleading poverty” yet “their last accounts at Companies House show profits of £3.7 million” and its “parent company has increased revenue by 32% to €2.4 billion”. Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Workers at Heathrow Airport employed by Vanderlande do a safety and security critical role that passengers depend on. The fact that their employer refuses to recognise this, as shown by their pitiful pay offer, speaks volumes. Our members will have the full support of their union as they head to the picket line in their fight for a fair pay rise.”

The strikes will be between 17:30 on 6 October and 6am on 9 October and for ten consecutive days starting on 20 October. This will coincide with the autumn half-term getaway, as for many schools the break is between 23 to 27 October.

A Vanderlande representative told NationalWorld it is “saddened to hear that Unite continue to take steps toward an Industrial Action.” and “urges” the union to “present our latest offer for consideration” and “continue meaningful discussion in order to avoid the impact of any Industrial action.” The representative added: “Vanderlande has actively asked Unite to continue discussions in order to find an agreement.”

The news of more flight disruption this autumn will come to no delight to passengers who have already faced stressful situations at airports across the UK this summer. Over the August bank holiday chaos ensued at UK airports due to a failure at the National Air Traffic Service (Nats) which caused thousands of airlines to cancel flights, leaving British holidaymakers stranded abroad. Tens of thousands of passengers spent a night sleeping on airport floors with many more seeing their holidays abruptly cancelled.