Around 100 HGV drivers at Heathrow-based aviation catering firm DO & CO are being balloted for strike action over pay and employment conditions.
The dispute stems from the transfer (TUPE) of 1,800 workers from Gate Gourmet and DHL Supply Service Chain to DO & CO Event & Airline Catering in the summer of 2020 at the height of the pandemic.
By the end of 2020, over 1,000 workers had been made redundant, union Unite said this week, adding that 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.
Unite is warning that any industrial action would cause major disruption to long haul BA flights during the school holidays as the flights cannot take off without the food on board which the company is contracted to supply. The ballot of the HGV drivers closes on Friday 11 February
Unite said it has already reported the Vienna-based company, whose clients include top airlines such as BA and Cathay Pacific, to The Pensions Regulator over allegations that workers’ pensions are not being invested properly.
The union says it is also in dispute with the company over management’s refusal to discuss a pay claim or update the recognition agreement that covers the employment conditions of staff.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “By any measure, the behaviour of this company is appalling, taking advantage of the pandemic to sack hard working staff. Unite will fully support our members as they seek justice at the employment tribunal.
“We take very seriously the claims that our members’ money for their retirement is not being invested properly. In fact, the situation is worse as pension contributions are still being placed into one of DO & CO’s bank accounts without the agreement of our members.
“This is an employer who 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.
“This hypocrisy will cause this company severe reputational damage, unless all the outstanding issues relating to pay and a recognition agreement are dealt with in a prompt and satisfactory manner.”
Unite regional officer Shereen Higginson said: “Our members have never had it easy with DO & CO at Heathrow since the massive TUPE of about 1,800 staff, with over 1,000 staff being made redundant.
"Enough is enough. Our members want to fight for what is their right - to have a recognition agreement in place covering the pre-existing members at DO & CO and to negotiate decent pay, as well as terms and conditions.
“Industrial action could 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.”
A request for comment from DO & CO has yet to receive a response.