Threat of planes being grounded at Heathrow as refuelling workers strike

image credit: Heathrow

Strikes by Unite members at Heathrow could see planes delayed, disrupted and grounded due to their inability to be refuelled, the union warned today (Monday 22 April).

50 refuellers working for AFS are to take industrial action for 72 hours beginning on 4 May after their employer imposed drastic cuts to the terms and conditions of new staff recruited since January 2024.

AFS, a joint venture between oil and gas companies (Air BP, Total, Q8 Air and Valero), has offered new staff in its workplace reduced pension and sickness benefits.

Unite members at AFS, refuel aircraft at Heathrow from 35 different airlines including household names such as Virgin, Delta, Emirates and Air France (see notes to editors for full list).

Strikes over the May Day bank holiday are likely to lead to severe disruption to airline services for passengers.

Staff are furious at the imposition of a two-tier workforce and recognise that it represents a potential “race to the bottom” for staff across the company.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “AFS is behaving appallingly by attacking the T&Cs of new members of staff – those it views as the easiest to intimidate. But Unite will not stand for such bully-boy tactics and we will be backing our members in their fight for improved pensions and sick pay for all staff.”

Unite regional officer Kevin Hall added: “Our members recognise that if they allow this attack on their conditions to take place, before long this will become the norm. Unite won’t allow that to happen and is standing firm with our members on the picket line.

“AFS will have to answer directly to the airlines and passengers for the disruption caused by their unmerited actions.”