As British Airways tries to handle the fallout from its weekend IT mega-meltdown, new details are emerging of a pay dispute settlement the airline hopes to secure with Cabin Crew. Last week, reports suggested that BA and the staff union, Unite had secured a pay deal for so-called ‘Mixed Fleet’ Flight Attendants. We’ve now learnt that BA will only approve the deal if employees never again utter the phrase ‘poverty pay’.
During the bitter dispute between the airline and its employees, Unite the union had accused British Airways of paying its new Cabin Crew ‘poverty pay‘. They claimed the airline was paying its staff significantly less than the advertised salary. Speaking last December, Matt Smith, a Regional Officer for Unite said:
“Mixed fleet crew earn just over the minimum wage and below the national average. Significant numbers of crew are taking on second jobs, many go to work unfit to fly because they can’t afford to be sick”.
Smith, claimed the terms and conditions Mixed Fleet crew were working under, represented a serious safety risk: “Crew simply can’t afford to stay. Inexperience, fatigue and the fact that BA recently cut the length of crew training courses means Unite is genuinely concerned about the potential repercussions.”
British Airways maintained its position that new Mixed Fleet crew earned more than £21,000 and the actual amount earned by its crew ranged from £21,151.35 up to £27,356.30. With both sides at a deadlock, the union balloted members on strike action. The resulting strikes saw Cabin Crew setting up pickets around Heathrow Airport, waving banners that implored their employer to “End Poverty Pay”.
Other banners called the airline ‘Brutish Airways’ and the hashtag #BALowPayNoWay trended on Twitter.
Help end poverty pay at British Airways – join us and say #BAlowpaynoway https://t.co/TT90LY0rRg pic.twitter.com/7GVTCgDGU2
— Unite the union (@unitetheunion) February 25, 2017
With both sides seemingly at loggerheads, any chance of compromise looked impossible. British Airways initially refused to budge and instead took punitive action against striking staff. Crew were to be stripped of concessionary travel benefits and bonuses would be withheld. A one-time offer to break the strike and reclaim some benefits was rejected by many.
But on 15th March, British Airways and Unite suddenly announced they would be meeting for independent conciliation in a last-ditch effort to hammer out a deal. After a quiet couple of months, we then received reports that a deal had been presented to crew for approval. The full details can be found here, but in summary, British Airways has offered the following:
- Basic salary increased from £12,747 to £13,100 per year.
- Hourly flying pay raised to £3.14 per hour.
- A new allowance called DOA which see’s Cabin Crew receiving £10 for every trip with an overnight stay and an extra £5 for each night spent away from the home base.
- The structure for paying bonuses to focus on personal performance.
Don’t Say ‘Poverty Pay’
However, there’s a catch…
British Airways has demanded that Unite and its members no longer use the term ‘poverty pay’ or the #balowpaynoway hashtag. They also want the union to delete a BA Solidarity Facebook page, remove an anti-BA Twitter account and stop using yellow ribbons that had become a symbol of striking Cabin Crew.
And the demands go on. BA managers have told Unite to stop giving financial assistance to its members and have barred any future legal proceedings against the airline.
For its part, British Airways has agreed to reinstate the corporate bonus scheme for crew members who did participate in the strike action. Although, whether a bonus will be offered after the 2017 IT disaster remains to be seen.
Members will also be able to buy reduced fare tickets and a ban on ID90 concessionary travel tickets will be reduced to 12-months.
The deal was presented to employees last week. The result of a ballot to accept the deal is expected to be announced by Unite soon.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.