A war of words has erupted between the powerful union that represents British Airways check-in staff and the UK’s opposition Labour Party over the union’s threat to stage highly disruptive strike action over the summer holidays.
The check-in staff are demanding British Airways restore a 10 per cent pay cut that was forced through at the height of the pandemic and have voted overwhelmingly in favour of staging a strike if BA doesn’t meet their demands.
British Airways has only offered a one-off bonus worth 10 per cent of basic wages. The airline is reluctant to cave into the union’s demands over fears it will lead to an avalanche of similar demands from other workgroups who had their pay and conditions reduced during the pandemic.
On Sunday, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said he “categorically” opposed the proposed strike action and suggested Labour should withdraw support from striking workers.
Lammy said he no longer supported striking transport workers because he is “serious about the business of being in Government.”
The comments drew a fierce rebuke from the leader of the Unite union Sharon Graham who accused Labour of “hitting a new low”
“David Lammy has chosen to launch a direct attack on British Airways workers,” Graham blasted. “This is a group of workers who were savagely attacked by their employer during Covid. ‘Fire and rehire’ led to thousands of unnecessary job cuts and pay being slashed.”
Unite is the Labour party’s largest financial donor and pumped £3 million into Labour’s coffers ahead of the 2019 general election. In return, Unite gets a certain degree of influence over Labour’s policy direction and candidate selection.
Graham has previously said that she is rethinking Unite’s approach to funding the Labour party and will no longer “write blank cheques” or “repeat prescriptions”.
“Supporting bad bosses is a new low for Labour and once again shows that politicians have failed. It is now down to the trade unions to defend working people. We are their only voice.”
The union reiterated that the current dispute is not about a pay ruse but restoring wages that were lost during the pandemic.
“British Airways and its parent company IAG hold billions in reserves and assets and are predicting a return to profit this quarter,” Graham responded into claims that the airline could not afford to permanently restore pre-pandemic wages.
Unite has not yet announced potential strike dates but BA boss Sean Doyle says the airline is gearing up for a “summer of discontent”.
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.