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Len McCluskey blows his cool and announces plans for British Airways cabin crew strikes

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If you were wondering how the discussions between the UNITE union and British Airways were going, given that British Airways pilots have (subject to a vote) secured a deal with the airline to minimise job cuts, the answer seems to be “could be better”.

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of UNITE, released this letter last night that he has sent to Alex Cruz, British Airways Chief Executive.

I should say that none of the cabin crew I have spoken with have actually seen this ‘timetable’ to fire all staff on 7th August.  There IS a process for voluntary redundancy (staff must submit reasons by today for why they should be retained, voluntary redundancy and part-time working applications must be submitted by 3rd August, the result of the selection process for choosing those who remain is 7th August) but this is not the same as deciding to fire all staff unilaterally on 7th August.

See what you make of it …..

Len McCluskey BA

Dear Alex,

I am in receipt of your email dated 26 July and I am both staggered and offended by your arrogance.

In the opening paragraph you state “it has taken this long for you to realise and accept this”. This reference infers that I am only now understanding the financial difficulties that British Airways face. How dare you suggest such a thing. I have attempted for months to try to get you to understand the need to treat your workers with respect and dignity and this is the only way to get through this pandemic together. It is your staff, not you, that have for many years, built the good name of British Airways and contributed billions of pounds to its profitability year on year.

Your decision to adopt a scorched earth strategy with a ‘Fire and Rehire’ approach was always despicable. You and your management team have dragged the good name of British Airways through the mud. Have you ever asked yourself why so many MPs from all parties, at the highest level, have condemned British Airways or why newspaper and media outlets have been appalled at your actions? Perhaps you don’t understand that the British sense of ‘Fair Play’ runs deep in the psyche of the British people.

I am advised that no sooner are certain issues on process agreed then the company management renege on them, it beggars the question as to who is running the show – so much so that it is my intention to seek meetings with Antonio Vazquez Romero and IAG.

Also, please don’t insult me by asking ”how many of my members I have spoken to?” When you know full well that you have received thousands of heartfelt emails from your staff that you have ignored and or deleted without even reading. My shop stewards and reps speak to members constantly, dealing with the stress, anxiety and heart ache caused by your management style and strategy. Instead of criticising Unite reps, you should actually listen to them, instead of pretending to do so in order that you can tick some consultative process box and you might, at long last, realise that the only way to have a lasting peace and avoid months/years of industrial unrest is to work with us to achieve an acceptable way forward.

You have now published a timetable to Fire and Rehire thousands of your workforce on 7 August, we will work every hour between now and then, to convince you not to do so.

You can take this letter as our commitment to do that. However, you can also take this an intention to defend our members by moving towards industrial action with immediate effect.

Yours sincerely,


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Comments (126)

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

  • Opus says:

    Does anyone know what unite actually wants? Because now that BA has said basic pay won’t reduce by 20% it’s now fire and rehire. No more 60% reduction in salaries overnight. Like what does unite actually want??? Like can somebody actually identify what they want? They want BA to keep all their crew and pay them their salary as is? Because they’re not very clear. The section 188 I believe the pilots also received that but like we know they achieved a deal.

    • 351 says:

      All BASSA (WW/ED) keeping existing terms & conditions and pay whilst other departments and even fellow colleagues can bite the dust in their interest. That’s essentially what Unite wants and where all the political power within Unite’s BA sub-branches lies!

    • grex9101 says:

      They want everyone to keep their jobs and retain their conditions. It’s that simple. Quite why you fail to understand that is concerning.

  • Joe says:

    Why do they even still listen to the unions. It’s not like the staff have any bargaining power at present.

    • J says:

      The unions originally opposed the creation of Mixed Fleet and very correctly predicted that BA would devalue the product and service (as well as attack pay and conditions). 10+ years later and the brand is trashed. If they had short haul competition from easyJet at Heathrow they’d be stuffed – no wonder they don’t want a 3rd runway.

      • marcw says:

        i don’t agree BAs product and service is devalued. I think it has improved ages: affordable, competitive, more destinations than ever before, and a fantastic new business product. Of course, an excellent FFP (Except the surcharges).

        The other day I was looking some newspapers from 10 years ago, and BA was promoting London – Barcelona as a “sale” fare for £174. In economy.

        • John Corbett says:

          You must have had a drink before writing. BA is, and always has been, and I guess, always will be many paces behind the other major airlines (Business Class). Before the ‘refit’ the ClubWorld cabin was a dirty disgrace!

          • David says:


          • Opus says:

            Like who though? Air France? KLM? LH? In terms of latest business offering across all 3 I think BA has the best at the moment

        • J says:

          In economy though for a passenger without status there isn’t any difference between BA and easyJet (I’d even extend that to Wizz and Ryanair). How is that an improvement? Obviously none of these airlines have a look in at Heathrow…

          • Opus says:

            True, fair enough.

          • J says:

            I’m a short haul economy flyer without status and consider BA leagues ahead of Easyjet. If you just add up add ons then your point holds, but for every other part of the experience, I feel BA is superior.

          • J says:

            Ryanair offer better legroom – and for a small charge I can guarantee hand luggage. If Stansted were more convenient I’d pick Ryanair over BA short haul as in economy it’s a better hard product (I am only Bronze though).

          • J says:

            That’s good to hear – I did 100+ flights with Ryanair in the 2000s and loved every one of them – but then the hassle of being in airports an hour outside of the city and waking up at 3am to catch a 6.45am flight just stopped being worth it for me. I guess it all just depends what our most frequent routes are and what airlines best provide – for my routes Ryanair hasn’t changed in those respects.

            Easyjet offers better airports and better times, but I’ve had terrible reliability over the years: Ryanair (100+ flights, longest delay – one of 2 hours), BA (150+ flights, longest delay – one of 3 hours), Easyjet (40+ flights – one delay of 4 days, two of 48 hours and frequent 2 hour+ delays). One of the 2 day delays was last year, and they refused my EU261 claim for £50 of supermarket and takeaway food for a family of four.

            But I’m happy to accept my Easyjet experiences may be an extreme!

          • Lady London says:

            As someone who’s time and time again waited 1-2 hours for the last Easyjet flight of the day with the adjacent gate seeing Ryanair leave on time for practically the same route last thing at night, I came to the conclusion my flight is really scheduled to depart at 11pm not 10pm only Easyjet is lying not publishing that.

            Arriving into Gatwick particularly on a Sunday night this puts you immediately into the hardly-any-transport period and the always-train-problems-at-Gatwick-on-a-Sunday-late-night period making a 4 hour difference late in reaching home sometimes so 4am instead of 1am.

            Talking to crews the plane was iften on its 4th rotation of the day. Whereas for Ryanair it was the 3rd. Always this kind of delay on that Easyjet last flight but never enough to claim compo. So the Ryanair flying experience I just grew out of but reluctantly I must admit they are more on time than Easyjet and this was borne out by the stats.

          • J says:

            Indeed statistically I’m pretty sure Ryanair usually win for being on time – not surprising really given they don’t operate different aircraft and run a v lean operation. So if BA can’t beat Ryanair on punctuality, leg room/hard product etc – as well as price what do they really have going for them beyond a frequent flyer programme and Heathrow slots? If they ever end up facing competition at Heathrow from another LCC they’re toast. BA obviously can’t beat the original LCC’s at their own game, there’s clearly space in the market for a full service airline, Walsh/Cruz however just want to milk the Heathrow monopoly – unfortunately for the future of BA it might not last forever.

  • Gavin says:

    As I know from my former day job, len is a total s**t; totally unequalled to represent his members’ best interests.

  • Paul says:

    Perhaps you don’t understand that the British sense of ‘Fair Play’ runs deep in the psyche of the British people.

    This is pure mcluskey Brexit xenophobia. It translates.

    You don’t know anything cos your foreign

    Much as I loath what IAG have done to BA and that I dislike Cruz because he has all but destroyed a famous brand. I probably dislike mcluskey more. He seems to be a 70’s throwback of union leaders.

    BAs behaviour is shocking and should be stopped but mccluskey’s approach is throw petrol on a fire. He will lose!

    • Sandra says:

      +1 My immediate thoughts too – this reads like a throwback to the 70s. McCluskey is a total dinosaur with no grasp of reality.

  • John Corbett says:

    Some of those curmudgeonly older staff HAVE to go!

  • Mike says:

    Gosh I never thought I would agree with Len McCluskey, but he does have a point “It is your staff, not you, that have for many years, built the good name of British Airways and contributed billions of pounds to its profitability year on year.”……………………….I don’t think Alex turning up once in a high viz vest once actually contribute much………………………………..

  • Rob Collins says:

    Whatever your feelings on McCluskey, you have to say that he is largely correct. BA’s Fire and Rehire policy is beyond the pale. It’s one thing to say that you don’t need the staff because of the economic conditions which prevail. It’s another to then propose to rehire those same employees on vastly inferior terms and conditions.

  • Martin says:

    When I board a long haul BA plane, I always hope for a legacy crew. They are professional, confident and know their job. I agree the BA business or Club product is probably one of the worst in the skies. At least the legacy crews can serve drinks, a meal and get the lights off quickly. It is far better than being served by slow bewildered crew, who think flying means to smile insincerely and have no sense of urgency until it’s their sleep break. One solution may be to have legacy crews run the BA’s First and Club cabins, where their more comprehensive training and experience can resuscitate their premium products .

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