Employees at Britain’s busiest airport have been warned that they face the sack if they refuse to accept voluntary pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sky News has learnt that Heathrow’s human resources chief told thousands of staff this week that “dismissal and reinstatement might be the final step” for anyone not choosing to take a 15% pay reduction.
In an extraordinarily-worded memo, Paula Stannett, the airport’s chief people officer, said: “We are looking for everyone to play their part and are not expecting anyone to opt out, other than those who are leaving us very shortly through redundancy.
“There will be consequences if colleagues do not accept the revised terms as it will mean that we have to make further job cuts.
“It will also have consequences for those colleagues who do not wish to participate.”
Heathrow has already imposed a 10% pay cut on unionised staff, and is planning to make roughly a quarter of its senior managers redundant.
Ms Stannett’s latest memo goes further, however, saying that “my proposal is that we should offer furlough followed by voluntary severance for colleagues who do not want to take a pay reduction”.
“In the unlikely case that colleagues continue to refuse to take part, dismissal and reinstatement might be the final step.
“Obviously that is something I am keen to avoid, although I can confirm that is an option that is legally available to the company to take.”
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One source said that any reinstatement of sacked staff would be on inferior employment terms.
The ultimatum to Heathrow’s workforce underlines the pressure on the UK’s largest airport as air traffic grinds almost to a halt.
Heathrow is owned by a consortium of wealthy sovereign, infrastructure and pension funds, including the Spanish group Ferrovial and the Universities Superannuation Scheme.
Last month, the airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said he would give up his salary for three months as it tries to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heathrow reported a near-5% fall in passenger traffic in February, with a much steeper decline in March to be disclosed shortly.
Regional airports are facing financial ruin as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, while a number of airlines are in talks about a bailout by the Treasury.
A Heathrow spokeswoman declined to comment.