Cabin crew at British Airways have again found themselves arguing with management over the airline’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and sweeping changes to terms and conditions the airline says is necessary to ensure BA’s survival. Talks on new flying agreements have stalled in the last week with one cabin crew union claiming management have taken a “one-dimensional intransigent approach” to negotiations.
In an internal memo, the BASSA union accuses negotiators on the airline’s side of having “little interest or vision for the future beyond their own”. They claim British Airways have “swept aside” previously agreed negotiation principles and are instead trying to “force through” a set of “downgraded” agreements that covers things like days off, trip lengths and the number of crew assigned to work on different aircraft.
In the same memo, the union also revealed that the head of the department that is orchestrating a massive reorganisation of cabin crew at the airline is “currently away from the business”. In her place, a management team have taken an approach that is “entirely at odds with both the spirit and wording” of a framework agreement that she had agreed with unions.
Last week, chief executive Alex Cruz announced his sudden departure from the airline after surviving repeated calls for his resignation since he joined British Airways in 2015. Cruz said he had started to consider his “professional career” much earlier in the year but finally made the decision to leave the airline after seeing through a COVID-19 shakeup of the business that resulted in 12,000 employees leaving the airline.
The way in which Cruz and British Airways handled the shakeup drew the ire of unions and lawmakers, with one influential parliamentary committee labelling the airline a “national disgrace”. Controversial plans to ‘fire and rehire’ thousands of staff on inferior contracts were eventually dropped and unions had been hoping for a “new chapter of constructive relations” with the airline.
British Airways altered its original plans significantly in the face of fierce opposition, although it became increasingly clear that dramatic changes were necessary at every airline in the world to ensure survival through the Corona crisis.
Cabin crew at BA’s Heathrow base are set to join a new ‘single’ fleet on November 1, merging two legacy fleets with lower-paid so-called ‘Mixed Fleet’ crew. All three groups of crew had separate agreements that will no longer exist from the beginning of next month.
BASSA described the BA’s position as “an error of judgement that will have far-reaching implications, driving a further wedge between an already suspicious workforce.”
Negotiations are said to be continuing but an emergency ballot is said to be on the cards. “Although we are in adjournment, talks have effectively stalled and until suggestions and proposals are not met with either hostility, resentment or lip service, progress is unlikely,” the memo concluded.
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 used by some of the biggest names in journalism.