Union slams Heathrow strike-breaking scheme

Striking Heathrow firefighters are being undercut by a privatised strike-breaking outfit from Surrey County Council, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has learned. The FBU has slammed the “backhanded” method of strike-breaking, warning that replacement crews will not be sufficiently trained for airport or airplane fires.

The strike-breaking unit, South East Business Services, was set up by Surrey County Council over four years ago as a separate local authority trading company. Some firefighters initially signed up to the unit, which came with a £3,000 pay package, but pulled out upon learning that the unit was set up to provide strike cover.

Firefighters in Surrey are not generally trained to provide airport or airplane fire cover, which requires specialist skills. The FBU believes the strike breaking plan is badly thought out and could risk public safety at Heathrow Airport.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

“This is a backhanded act of strike-breaking from Surrey County Council. Airport fire crews are specialists and, quite frankly, this Micky Mouse outfit will not be trained to deal with airplane fires to anywhere near the standard of airport firefighters. They’re playing fast and loose with public safety at an airport, one of the most high-risk locations imaginable.

“Striking Heathrow workers have the full support of the FBU. It is grossly unfair that they be treated so poorly, while executives and shareholders line their own pockets. No one, and certainly no firefighters, should be helping bosses undermine this strike under any circumstance.”

Over 4,000 Heathrow Airport workers had planned to strike in late July in a dispute over pay. But the industrial action scheduled for 24 and 25 July was later called off so union members could vote on a new pay offer.

Ballots close at 17:00 today, Friday 2 August. If the offer is refused, and subsequent negotiations with ACAS fail, two more 48-hour strikes, planned for August 5 -6 and August 23-24, are likely to go ahead. 

Share this story