Summary of HLC meeting 6th September 2011


The Chair proposed that as it had been 2 years since elections, that voting take place at the next HLC for steering committee positions. RIO Rhys McCarthy advised that Unite was moving to a 3 year cycle for elections and that constitutional bodies would retain elected members until December 31st 2012. The general committee broadly felt that it would be advantageous to synchronise with the Area Activists Committee, Regional Industrial Sector Committee and National Industrial Sector Committee. However, it was acknowledged that airline relocations had left some areas with inadequate representation. It was also noted that the Cargo position on the Steering Committee was not currently actively filled and volunteers were asked to step forward to cover the role.

HLC campaigning and profile

Discussion was held on how to make the HLC a more effective campaigning group. The new Unite Regional Secretary, Peter Kavanagh has been contacted and asked to meet up with the HLC. Peter is happy to meet us and we are trying to confirm a convenient date to do so.

It has been suggested that the HLC approach officers of branches and sub-branches that do not regularly attend HLC meetings to encourage them to get involved. Additionally, it was felt that the RIOs should be encouraged to attend the HLC and asked to get their branches to join the HLC mutual support network. It was proposed that the HLC make contact with employers to encourage them to support release for reps to attend meetings (stressing our position as pro-expansion and investment in LHR and opposition to excessive passenger taxes).

The HLC was favourably mentioned at the TUC Hazards conference.

The HLC twitter feed set up by our Secretary now has 200 followers including 4 Labour MPs, 3 of which are Shadow Cabinet Ministers. The Green Party and the Socialist Party are also followers.

The news section of the HLC website is well developed, but other parts need work (e.g. H&S, Equalities and Education). We also need to do more work on promoting the site. 

Request to support Ken Livingstone

The HLC was approached 2 weeks ago and asked  to support Ken Livingstone's campaign to become Mayor of London. Due to Ken's stated anti-airport expansion position, it was not possible to declare a general position for the HLC ahead of a meeting of the general committee. Following dicussion, it was agreed that the HLC would approach Mr. Livingstone's office to ask for clarification of his intentions regarding local transport pricing (especially for low income earners) and if Air Passenger Duty was likely to targeted as a source of income for the London budget.

Groung Handling Meeting/Training

A training package has been set up for representatives in Ground Handling to assist them in dealing with redundancy and TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment) situations. The European Transport Workers Federation has come very close to an agreement that would limit the way in which GH companies are forced to make lower and lower bids to win contracts from airlines - often risking making a loss if business changes slightly. This unstable business model has caused frequent redundancy and transfer situations. The airlines are still opposing the agreement. The union position is that a Ground Handling Directive would only be acceptable if it contains a social policy that protects workers' terms and conditions.

Cargo Area Pedestrian Safety

Since the death of Kelly Dalgleish, cargo reps have made a number of efforts to get safety improvements in the "Horseshoe" area of cargo. Representatives of the unions had achieved a broad agreement with Police, the Health and Safety Executive and MP John McDonnell as to what needed to be done to make the area safer. However, since the management of the area passed from BAA to Lynton, safety improvement work seems to have stalled. Cargo reps asked that the HLC formally ask the cargo RIO to approach Lynton and the other parties to the pedestrian safety project to ask that the improvements be actioned. Moving forward may involve another approach to the cargo AOCA.

Airside Driving

The CAA has invited submissions for its revision of Airside Driving Regulations (CAP 790). Closing date for comments is 3rd October 2011. Volunteers were asked to come forward to draft a submission to the CAA. Items that need to be addressed were acknowledged as -

  • Penalty points system, enforcement and appeals
  • That employees must not be made to pay the penalty for employer failures such as inadequate training, supervision, vehicle maintenance or unreasonable pressure to meet aircraft turnaround times
  • That employee representatives should be involved in meaningful consultation with aerodrome management on airport specific regulations, enforcement and training

The HLC will make a group submission, but it was agreed that individual branches may choose to make their own contributions giving details of their own specific concerns.

The HLC Secretary will send invitations to members of the working group for a meeting in 10 to 14 days time to draft the submission.

Southampton Council Workers

The HLC was asked if it would be prepared to act in any capacity to support workers in Southampton Council who were given an ultimatum to take a pay cut or have their contracts terminated. The HLC declared support and recommended that those branches that can afford to do so hold motions for a donation of £100 (or other, if appropriate) to the workers in dispute. It was suggested that donations be sent or delivered directly to the branch to avoid administrative delays. The HLC will approach the S'ton workers' convenor and agree a suitable time to visit with any donations and invite any HLC activists who wish to do so to come along to declare support.

Catering Workers

It was noted that while catering workers for in-flight were reasonably well organised, that there are many food retail outlets and staff canteens at Heathrow that have only one or two members. It was suggested that the Unite catering branch be contacted and that the best way of supporting these members at the airport be discussed.

O. H. Parsons briefing

Matthew Cartledge (Senior Partner at OHP trade union solicitors) attended and was thanked for his support of the HLC benefit dinner in April. Matthew informed the HLC of the latest developments in employment law and its implementation by tribunals. The OHP website is being updated to include additional resource material for reps. The Equality Act means that employees cannot be forced to retire on the grounds of age after the end of September 2011. If employers have not given the required six months notice, then they cannot force employees to retire before this date either. Redundancy payments should not be reduced on the basis of age, but calculated on length of service. New legislation gives agency workers employment rights similar to other employees.


The proposed rail link connecting Heathrow to Wales was discussed. There was some scepticicm as to whether the project would receive adequate government support to reach completion. It was broadly felt that the rail project was in line with Unite's position on sustainable growth for Heathrow. However, there were concerns that there might be job losses in some companies and how the rail link would affect existing transport links to the west.

Next HLC

Due to training commitments, it was requested that the next general meeting of the HLC be held in the evening. It was agreed to hold the next meeting on the 5th October 2011 from 18.00 to 20.00 at the Unite office, Bath Road