In the seemingly unending dispute over pay and conditions for cabin crew at British Airways, a union who represent ‘Mixed Fleet’ crew has called on the airline for what it calls a ‘pause for peace’. It comes as cabin crew enter yet another week of walkouts – the latest round of strike action began at the start of August and ends on the 30th of the month.
The general secretary of the Unite union, Len McCluskey has written to British Airways chief executive, Alex Cruz to explain the union’s strategy for future negotiations. The letter, which was released to the media reads:
“You will be aware that we have not issued any further notice for strike action which will currently end on 30 August. This is in order to create a ‘pause for peace’ so that our respective teams can get around the table with a view to securing a mutually accepted resolution to the current dispute.”
In an unusual move, McCluskey has proposed to break the deadlock by offering to personally get involved in the talks. His letter to Cruz notes: “Given the nature and length of the dispute I am more than willing to involve myself in any future talks with you and would ask that the company looks at a number of dates from 31 August onwards.”
It comes several weeks after inside sources at the union claimed the head of the Mixed Fleet branch was being too militant in his approach to the dispute. He was recently replaced but soon after cabin crew walked out yet again.
Yet despite McCluskey’s intervention, Unite has refused to enter any form of negotiation until the latest strike action concludes at the end of August. It’s understood that senior British Airways managers have been trying to enter immediate talks with the union since last week. The airline was rebuffed by Unite who stated they would only be available to talk in the second half of September.
In response, British Airways claimed the union had been lying to its members and they had been “misled” about the airline’s offer. Earlier this year, BA offered to raise cabin crew pay but then drew ire from the union for allegedly withdrawing perks and bonuses from anyone who had been involved in the strike.
Since then, British Airways has backed down – agreeing to return both concessionary travel benefits and bonuses. Nonetheless, Unite claims BA is still “sanctioning” striking cabin crew.
The so called ‘Mixed Fleet’ cabin crew make up about one-third of all flight attendants at British Airways. Anyone who joined the airline since 2010 joins the Mixed Fleet contract and work both short and long haul routes. The Unite union claim these crew have been misled about the salary they were expected to earn with many only making about £16,000 per year.
So far, cabin crew have been on strike for 76 with a further 8 days to go. The union says that BA has spent millions of pounds on ‘breaking’ the strike instead of entering a meaningful discussion. There is currently an ongoing legal battle over the airline’s use of wet leased Qatar Airways aircraft.