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EXCLUSIVE: Possible British Airways industrial unrest on the way as unions demand a 5% pay rise

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It has been a while since we’ve seen any industrial unrest at British Airways, so the more cynical amongst you will be thinking that we must be due a strike threat soon.  And here we are.

The three main trade unions representing British Airways staff – BALPA, Unite and GMB – have come together to submit a joint pay claim for 2019-21.  This covers all employees, not just cabin crew.

The immediate demand is for a rise of 5% from 1st January (or 1.75% above RPI if higher – RPI is currently 3.3%).  This is to be followed by a rise of RPI + 1.5% from 1st January 2020 and RPI + 1.25% from 1st January 2021.  In addition, unions want 7% of annual operating profit to be ringfenced for staff bonuses.

British Airways BA 777X 777 9X

Whilst this may sound aggressive, base pay for a new Mixed Fleet cabin crew member is currently, I believe, £13,079.  Allowances bring this up to what unions claim is an average of around £16,000.  BA claims the average is higher at around £21,000, with the difference apparently based on ‘typical’ versus ‘actual’ rostering patterns and fleet-wide bonus payments which the individual cannot control.

Let’s be honest, this pay claim process is unlikely to end well.  Here is the letter circulated to BALPA, GMB and Unite members this week:

Dear Member

Traditionally, around this time of year, the trade unions submit their separate pay claims for their areas. 2019 will be different. The trade unions want to ensure that their members get a share in the success of our employer. Therefore, the trade unions have submitted a joint claim. One claim on behalf of everyone.

Giving our membership a play by play account of negotiations is impossible but in line with our continued efforts to be as open as possible the full claim is set out below. The claim content is based heavily on your feedback in the pay survey conducted at the start of Summer 18 and focusses on:

an above RPI pay rise,

enhanced profit-sharing arrangements, and

the introduction of a sharesave scheme.   

Background to the claim

The BA Q3 operating profit margin of 20.1% (adjusted to take into account exceptional items), far exceeded that achieved by many rival companies, most notably United, Delta, and Norwegian. Based on the key measure used by investors, return on invested capital, BA delivered another excellent result with a ROIC of 16.7%.

BA staff have, for decades, made many sacrifices along the road to where BA is now. Most notably, accepting changed contracts and concessions to contracts old and new, and taking pay cuts to help the company in the face of challenges in the past. Only this year, BA staff who were members of NAPS reluctantly agreed that its costs were unsustainable and that it needed to close to future accrual.

BA’s trade unions have displayed leadership and restraint, always recognising and understanding the need for our employer to deliver strong financial results to enable it to flourish and grow the business.

We firmly believe BA can afford real pay awards materially above inflation.

Details of the claim

The joint unions are therefore seeking to agree the following increases: RPI+1.75% (or 5% if higher) from 1-Jan-19; RPI+1.5% from 1-Jan-20 and RPI+1.25% from 1-Jan-21.

We also believe BA is able to give staff a much larger share in the success of the business, aligning the interests of the company, its shareholders and staff. To achieve this aim, the joint unions are seeking to agree (i) an enhanced, all-employee profit-sharing scheme based on a pot equivalent to 7% of BA’s annual operating profit per year and (ii) the introduction of a voluntary sharesave scheme.


To deliver the best experience to our customers, we believe BA need their staff engaged. An airline without its pilots is not an airline.

BA has failed to match best practice in recent years by making all-employee awards that in no way match the success of the company itself. This cannot be justified and leads to a fundamental disconnect between the company and its pilots. In our own benchmarking, we know that KLM and Lufthansa both ensure that pilot contracts reflect the success of the company through generous bonus schemes.

Additionally, we know that other airlines continue to offer share schemes. More progressive companies realise such schemes are popular with staff and invaluable in terms of getting staff to identify with the performance of the company.

A CC view

For reps, basic business is getting harder to progress within BA. We believe there are cultural issues in the BA/IAG leadership structure which are not in the long-term interests of our airline. There is so much pressure on resourcing and cost focus now that it is has become increasingly difficult to resolve straightforward, day-to-day matters (for example, dependency leave). This misguided approach is not likely to help BA resolve much bigger issues such as company-wide pay negotiations. A focus on cost-cutting alone, with little or no emphasis on value for money, means increased fatigue, little in the way of staff development, less retention and decreasing job satisfaction.

Job satisfaction and the prestige of working for British Airways is at a low, evident through widespread disengagement. Our recent pay survey showed one consistent response, highlighting that the small bonus did not engender any feeling of value or worth and was generally regarded as “insulting”.

The BACC wants to address these matters. This won’t happen overnight, but BA engaging meaningfully with us during this pay claim will be an essential step for pilots and the company. A collaborative approach is still the BACC’s goal. As we enter another hectic year and ambitious network plan we hope that British Airways and the leadership team recognise this, despite our concerns. We hope managers can facilitate pay negotiations which allow our reward to be aligned with the success of this company. The CC and the other unions believe these changes are entirely affordable and justified.

Finally, reps and members need to work together. We appreciate your patience and recognition that there are times when things will appear too quiet. In recent years negotiations have been plagued by rumours and members working against each other, not with each other. The new CC commits being open and honest with our members at every possible opportunity. In return, we ask that you do not accept rumour as fact. Do not fall into the negativity that can be online social platforms. Instead, come and meet us. Support us. Please email us to bust myths so that we can help you to help each other.

Next steps

The next joint union meeting with the company will take place in December.


BACC and Pay Team


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Comments (105)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Steve Jones says:

    This is a really poor article and headline.

    • Rob says:

      Nah, it’s not 🙂 The headline is 75% less sensationalist than it could have been and the text is very fair, given the number of BA strikes that I have experienced over my lifetime – and there is a fair chance that I’ve been flying BA since before you were born, if you are Mixed Fleet. BA is going to kick this claim out as soon as it is formally made and then the first bit of strike-threatening sabre-rattling will start. ‘Twas ever thus.

      • Londonbus says:

        The BA stuff have taken it in the back pocket for a long time. The airline is very profitable – time for the situation to be levelled up.

    • TripRep says:

      Steve, your opinion lacks any supporting evidence. Please share it.

  • Paul says:

    A tip….that’s insane…….the idea that I tip cabin crew principally there for my safety is utterly bonkers

  • Jim ware says:

    The Main Problem with BA at present is Alex Cruz, He is trying to make BA everything to everybody and no Airline can do that

    • Rob says:

      If you look at the Investor Day presentation, that game is over. BA is now categorised as a premium airline and in theory runs that way, with Aer Lingus, LEVEL, Vueling etc picking off the price concious. The A350 fleet, pretty light on economy seats, is a sign of this. For that to happen, though, a lot has to change.

      • Nick says:

        The A350 is ‘pretty light’ on economy seats? Is this the same A350 that’s being delivered without F and is earmarked for the ‘high-density demand’ routes…?

      • Andrew says:

        I’ve done 4 trips to the East Coast in economy in the past 12 months.

        BA was the worst in respect of cleanliness, comfort, entertainment & food. Will they ever get rid of the tiny 4×3 screens in economy with the visible pattern?

        Virgin was better than BA, but only by the tiniest margin.

        United was surpisingly good.

        Leaving them all behind was Delta. Comfortable seat, good leg room, (relatively) huge screen, responsive entertainment system, and the best economy food and drink service I’ve had in years.

  • sedgie252 says:

    OT (sorry) : Currently enjoying the delights of the Madrid T4S Velasquez Lounge courtesy of Avios from the crazy Iberia promotion, which allowed me to treat my brother and his wife (and myself) to a short break to Spain in Iberia / BA long-haul Business Class style.

    At LHR T5 we visited the Galleries North lounge and walked the tunnel to T5C (no time to visit the T5B lounge – sore subject!).

    We very much enjoyed the flatbed seat experience on the Iberia A340-600 and in contrast to what some others have experienced the cabin crew were extremely friendly.

    In Spain we visited Toledo and Segovia, both of which we highly recommend.

    We will soon be returning to London on the BA 777 so it will be interesting to compare it to the Iberia flight.

    Sorry for the long ramble but all of this was inspired by and made possible by the articles and comments of Rob and the contributors to HFP, to whom I would like to say THANK YOU!

    We have also just bought Priority Passes using the Black Friday discount so in future I’ll be able to enjoy everyone’s PP discussions!

  • McTavish says:

    As ever when airline industrial action is talked about the two types of comments pop up.
    1. The idiots who think being cabin crew is what you see from the passenger seat. Doooh!

    2. The admin/ management staff who love to comment on the pay of the crew with a shocking amount of envy to sauce it up. Oh yes they were the people who commented on the wall a few years ago! Those appallingly unprofessional comments still are not forgotten and never will be!!

    • Andrew says:

      “…and never will be!!” – I can just picture Greta quoting Sir Cameron Bridie at Air Scotia boot camp.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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