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Strike action threatens Heathrow flights

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

About 100 HGV drivers at premium aviation catering firm Do & Co at Heathrow will strike on 4 and 5 March in a row over pay and employment conditions.

Any industrial action would cause major disruption to British Airways flights, particularly long haul, as food has to be on board for pilots and cabin crew as part of their employment contracts.

Unite the union has warned that flights could be cancelled after its members voted by 94% for strike action following scrutiny of Do & Co’s stewardship of workers’ pensions.

The strike is scheduled to run from 4am on Friday 4 March until 23.59 on Saturday 5 March. Unite says is it over Do & Co’s refusal to award an ‘acceptable pay increase’ for 2021. It is also refusing to recognise Unite for collective bargaining purposes on behalf of all Do & Co Event & Airline Catering Ltd employees.

Unite has already reported the Vienna-based company, whose clients include airlines BA and Cathay Pacific, to The Pensions Regulator over allegations that workers’ pensions are not being invested properly.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “There are far too many employers – and Do & Co is one of them – who have used the pandemic to attempt to salami slice our members’ pay and conditions. These HGV drivers at Heathrow have Unite’s full support in their strike action next month for decent pay and union recognition.

“This employer claims that ‘We treat our employees like family as this is a family run business’ and also says it is a premium caterer with high standards, despite paying their staff some of the lowest rates in the London region – the hypocrisy is breath-taking.”

The current bout of industrial discontent stems from the transfer of 1,800 workers from Gate Gourmet and DHL Supply Service Chain to Do & Co Event & Airline Catering Ltd in the summer of 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

By the end of that year, more than 1,000 workers had been made redundant. As a result, the company is now facing an employment tribunal due to its mishandling of the redundancy process with two pending group legal claims citing unfair dismissal.

Shereen Higginson, Unite regional officer, said: ““Strike action will cause major disruption for BA and other airlines as pilots and cabin crew are required to have food on board as part of their contracts. The impact would be most severe on flights of more than six hours in duration – three hours to the destination and three back to the UK. No food on board equals no flights.”