London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) is set to face further disruptions during the busy summer period because workers at major aircraft refueling company Aviation Fuel Services (AFS), represented by the Unite union, have overwhelmingly voted to strike in a bid to end a three year pay freeze.
Unite members at AFS returned a 93% ‘yes’ vote calling for strike action from a 92% turnout.
Striking employees will stage an initial 72-hour walkout beginning at 5am on July 21, 2022 and ending at 4.59am on July 24.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “AFS needs to offer its workers a decent pay rise. Oil and gas companies are making massive profits so AFS has the wherewithal to make a proper offer. AFS workers have sustained wage cuts for three years so it’s time AFS rewarded their sacrifices.”
BA check-in staff at Heathrow, represented by two unions, have also voted in favour of walkouts this summer in a row over restoring pay.
AFS is a joint venture operation whose partners include BP, Total Energies, Q8 Aviation and Valero Energy.
“Our members at AFS will receive Unite’s complete support until this dispute is resolved and workers receive a decent pay increase,” Graham continued.
AFS provides fueling services to more than 70 airlines at Heathrow, including Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL), United, SAS, Air France, Emirates, Delta, JAL, KLM and Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY).
The strike action will cause “considerable disruption and delays across Heathrow”, said Unite union regional officer Kevin Hall, adding that “this strike is entirely of AFS’s own making”.
“Unite has given the company every opportunity to make a decent pay offer and it has failed to do so. Even now strike action and the resulting disruption can be avoided if AFS returns to the negotiating table and makes an offer that meets our member’ expectations,” Hall added.
News of the strike comes at a time of numerous flight delays and cancellations across Europe while the industry continues to struggle to meet the surge in demand for air travel amid staff shortages.
The most recent of these was announced on July 5 when British Airways reduced its schedule by 11%, resulting in around 1,000 flight cancelations to destinations across Greece, Spain, and Portugal from its two major hubs in London, Heathrow Airport (LHR) and Gatwick Airport (LGW). However, British Airways will be unaffected by the AFS strike action as it uses a different supplier.