British Airways has made a major U-turn in its approach to mixed fleet cabin crew who have been striking over their pay and conditions – described as ‘poverty pay’ by the Unite union who represents them. In a leaked email from Karen Slinger, BA’s head of in-flight experience, British Airways has promised to backtrack on its previous treatment of staff who took part in the strike action.
The dispute has been running since late last year with cabin crew complaining they weren’t receiving the pay that British Airways had promised them. A few months ago the Unite union and British Airways agreed on a pay settlement but this was swiftly rejected by cabin crew over some of the terms of the agreement. Most controversial was a clause that removed staff travel privileges from any cabin crew who had taken part in the strike action.
There’s currently a 16-day strike in progress that started on 19th July and is due to finish on 1st August 2017. But if that wasn’t bad enough for the airline, a further strike has been called – starting on 2nd August and lasting for two weeks. Speaking on behalf of the union, Oliver Richardson commented: “It’s high time British Airways stopped spending millions defending low pay and its bullying approach by negotiating a settlement to this long running dispute.”
Speaking about the way BA had handled the latest industrial action, Richardson continued: “Attempts by British Airways to bribe cabin crew into not striking with a £250 bung represent a crude attempt to sow division and will ultimately fail. Such actions by British Airways will only serve to deepen the resolve of our members and the support they are receiving from the public and politicians.”
So far the actual disruption to passengers has been minimal with BA using a number of Qatar Airways aircraft on wet lease and combining flights where possible. But it’s no doubt been costing the airline a significant amount of money. The airline has also been forced to roster working staff up to their legal flying hours – clearly, a situation that isn’t sustainable.
We thought British Airways was in this for the long haul but it looks like the pressure has now got too much. Karen Slinger has sent an email to her staff saying that normal staff privileges will be returned on 1st August – Just before the next strike is due to begin. She has urged the union to put the offer before their members in an attempt to resolve the dispute.
“We know the staff travel ban for crew who have been on strike has become the biggest obstacle to a deal,” wrote Slinger. Staff travel privileges will only be returned if the strikes come to an end. She continued: “This is a significant change in our position. We have made it for the sake of Mixed Fleet colleagues as a whole and because of our desire to draw a line under this period.”
Whether this will be enough remains to be seen. Allegedly, the Unite union has become aware of cabin crew at rival airline, Virgin Atlantic, receiving a higher pay offer than that offered by British Airways. Whether staff decide to take harder line in an attempt to extract a better pay offer from BA remains to be seen.
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.