Three unions which together represent over 25,000 British Airways employees have labelled the airline a “profit-making powerhouse” with a less than generous “austerity approach to pay negotiations”. The claims were made by union leaders after the airline revealed it made nearly £2 billion in profits last year and comes as a dispute over pay and conditions for many frontline staff including cabin crew, pilots and customer service agents ramps up.
“British Airways is quite rightly celebrating an historic birthday and has just announced another record-breaking set of financial results,” read a joint statement from the Unite and GMB unions, as well as the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA). “The company’s extraordinary transformation – from a £230 million loss-making airline in 2009 to a £1.95 billion profit-making powerhouse in 2018 – is due in large measure to the outstanding contribution of BA employees.”
The three unions have demanded a 5% pay rise, along with increased profit sharing and the introduction of a share buyback scheme. It’s understood that British Airways has offered a much lower 2.7% pay rise while dismissing the other claims – an offer the unions claim is actually below cost of living increases that will leave most employees worse off.
It’s believed that staffers which also include engineers, terminal workers, office staff and managers will reject the airline’s offer by a wide margin in the coming weeks. Rejecting the final offered tabled by BA will open up the possibility of formal industrial action including mass strikes during the airline’s centenary celebrations.
“British Airways must end its austerity approach to pay negotiations, re-connect with its employees and deliver a pay deal that properly reflects its record-breaking profits,” demand the unions, claiming that negotiations are now at a “critical stage”.
Meanwhile, British Airways has previously said that it can’t simply link annual bonus payments to profits. Instead, the airline says profit sharing should be based on performance and has linked any increases to increased productivity – as part of the IAG airline group, British Airways uses the Net Promoter Score to assess its performance.
The joint IAG Net Promoter Score for 2018 – which is a measure for how likely a customer is to recommend a particular brand to friends and family – dropped by 0.5 points to 16.3. The average NPS score in the airline industry is 38, while leaders like JetBlue have previously achieved NPS scores as high as 68.
While British Airways is understood to have exceeded its NPS target for 2018, the unions say employees are being punished for the airline “taking its eye off the ball” over the years and failing to invest in product and service. For its parts, British Airways now says its investing millions of pounds in improving the passenger experience and the IAG Group says its seen an uplift in NPS scores off the back of this investment.
BA’s approach to profit sharing couldn’t be more at odds with their Dutch counterparts at KLM. Yesterday, the Amsterdam-based carrier announced a profit-sharing bonus totalling €168 million – worth around one and a half months wages for most employees.
British Airways cabin crew based at Gatwick Airport have already voted overwhelmingly in favour of beginning a formal industrial dispute over a separate claim for improved pay and working conditions.