Labour Research December 2009


BA cabin crew take a stand on job cuts

The long-simmering row at British Airways came to a head last month as the company began imposing changes on its cabin crew, and the Unite union issued industrial action ballot papers. At stake are far-reaching changes to in-flight crew complements and working practices, changes which Unite believes are contractual and so must be negotiated, not imposed.

Steve Turner, national officer for aviation, said the union had lodged a formal letter with BA “on behalf of our 12,000-plus cabin crew members who strongly oppose the company’s plans to force through cuts”.

He added: “Crews being forced to work under protest retain their legal rights to pursue a reversal of the imposition, as well as significant compensation, and Unite continues to fight their case in the High Court.” In the meantime, the union’s ballot for industrial action continues and will close as planned on 14 December. Strike action could start on 21 December.

The aviation industry has undoubtedly been hit hard by the credit crunch and recession. But Unite and the GMB union, which also represents BA staff, have argued for temporary measures including deferral of pay rises and incremental progression along with “headcount efficiencies” — not a pay freeze — to help the company return to profitability.

Unite has tabled changes amounting to £140 million in savings for the business which “could have been banked months ago”, national officer Brian Boyd points out.