Hundreds of British Airways check-in agents and ground staff have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action with any walkout set to coincide with the busy summer holidays when travel demand is set to peak.
Around 700 staff represented by the GMB and Unite unions are set to strike in a dispute over pandemic-era pay cuts that they are demanding be restored in full.
After the vote ended at 2 pm on Thursday, the Unite union said its members had backed strike action by 94.7 per cent, while 95 per cent of GMB members voted in favour of industrial action.
Strike dates are set to be announced within days and the unions must provide British Airways with at least two weeks’ notice. Most schools in England and Wales break up for a prolonged summer holiday in the last two weeks of July.
“These workers are claiming back what they had robbed from them due to BA’s callous fire and rehire during the pandemic,” slammed Nadine Houghton, national officer of the GMB union.
“BA forced our members into pay cuts during the pandemic when they had little workplace power to fight back,” Houghton said last month. “Now our members are back at work and staff shortages are hammering the company – it is their time to claim back what is theirs.”
Check-in staff represented by the two unions want a 10 per cent pandemic pay cut permanently restored but British Airways has only offered a one-off bonus of the same amount.
British Airways has been working to hire new check-in agents who may not yet be represented by a union or who aren’t invested in the latest dispute. The airline has also been training hundreds of managers in the check-in process to cover for a striking workforce.
Passengers have, however, still been warned they could face travel chaos if a strike goes ahead and British Airways may be forced to cancel hundreds of flights from its Heathrow hub.
As well as today’s formal strike ballot result, thousands of BA workers represented by Unite have already backed strike action in a non-binding consultative ballot. More than 97 per cent of Unite members, including cabin crew, engineers and baggage staff say they would support a strike in a dispute over pay.
“British Airways’ management now can no longer ignore the universal discontent across their own workforce, in the way they have ignored the needs of their own customers,” the Unite union warned.
“BA’s leadership created this chaos,” the union slammed. “The responsibility to resolve it lies entirely with the airline.”
The union is yet to announce a formal ballot.
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.