Airport operations staff at London’s Heathrow Airport have suspended a 48-hour strike, planned for Aug. 23-24, pending a ballot on an improved pay offer.

The pay dispute involves 4,000 security guards, firefighters, engineers, passenger service and airside operations staff, working across all five Heathrow terminals, represented by the Unite Union.

Unite said Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye’s basic pay increased 103.2% to £4.2 million ($5.1 million) in 2018, in sharp contrast with the 2.7% raise that was offered to its members in July. This amounts to £3.75 a day for many workers. Several revised offers have been tabled since then.

Around the same time, Heathrow said it had proposed a “progressive pay package giving at least a 4.6% pay rise to over 70%” of its frontline workers. The airport added the deal was above inflation and “specifically designed” to boost the wages of lower-paid staff.

Strikes were originally planned for July 26-27, Aug. 5-6 and Aug. 23-24, but ultimately all of these walkouts were progressively put on hold, following talks with conciliation service Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) acting as an intermediary.

The July 26-27 walkout was called off on July 24, pending a vote on a new pay offer, which was overwhelmingly rejected on Aug. 2.

This was immediately followed by further Acas talks, ultimately yielding a fresh offer, which led to the Aug. 5-6 walkouts each being suspended the day before.

A Unite spokesman told ATW the union had planned to complete the ballot on the Aug. 5 offer ahead of the Aug. 23-24 walkout. However, this was not possible, so the final two strike days were canceled Aug. 14.

Unite declined to give details of the Aug. 5 offer until its members have voted on the new package. The ballot will close Sept. 2.

Heathrow issued a statement, confirming the action has been suspended: “The proposed industrial action due to take place on Friday, Aug. 23 and Saturday Aug. 24 has been postponed. We would like to thank our passengers for their continued patience during this time.”

In earlier statements, Unite warned that Heathrow would have to temporarily reduce capacity if the walkout went ahead, costing the airport £26 per passenger for every canceled flight.

If 20% of flights were canceled over two days, Unite estimated 88,000 passengers would be disrupted, incurring a compensation bill of £2.3 million.

However, the union stressed that strike action is “always a last resort.”

Victoria Moores