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Unite balloting on potential BA strike action after ‘secret’ pay rises for new staff

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With inflation expected to hit 10% soon, and few companies willing or able to offer pay rises of that level (HfP did, before anyone asks), we can expect increased rumblings of industrial action across the economy. You may already have read about potential strikes on the rail network.

Unite, the main union representing British Airways staff, has asked British Airways ground staff to vote on their willingness to take industrial action this Summer.

According to Unite, British Airways has broken an agreement under which no groups of staff would receive preferential pay increases. This is a key part of collective bargaining, of course.

British Airways A350

Whilst BA has said that it has no problem attracting people to work as cabin crew – albeit that there are major issues getting security clearance for new recruits – it is harder to find people willing to work on the ground at Heathrow.

Unite claims that starting salaries for ground staff at Heathrow have been increased by £1,300 in an attempt to recruit staff. This was apparently done without the knowledge of BA line management or Unite representatives.

Under the terms of the last pay deal agreed with Unite, it believes that all other ground staff are contractually entitled to a £1,300 pay rise to match the increase given to new staff. The exact agreement is, to quote Unite:

“For the avoidance of doubt this is a full and final offer. British Airways cannot afford, and does not intend, to increase this offer. Therefore as a commitment to colleagues accepting this offer … any additional enhancement will also be applied to all areas accepting this offer.”

This is disappointing, it says, because the union had hoped to have seen the back of “the disastrous policies of deceit and mistrust instigated under Alex Cruz’s leadership“.

The question that Unite members are being ballotted on is (spot the typo):

“If necessary, would you support industrial action over this breech of the ‘good faith’ clause in the Pay 2022 BA/Unite agreement?”

There is a long way to go before any strike action takes place, but it is hard to see British Airways voluntarily offering a £1,300 pay rise to all ground staff.

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Comments (79)

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

  • Gordon says:

    Doubt anyone will notice if the staff go on strike….

    Flying Club world to SIN in 11 days judging by comments on here I am not looking forward to the service aspect on ground and air….

    • qrfan says:

      Sorry to break it to you but if you’re flying club world, the ground is the only place you’re getting a decent meal. Club world meal service is a disgrace. We’ve done 6 long haul sectors since November 2021 and it’s consistently remarkable what BA think they can get away with.

      • Gordon says:

        Yes I am aware of this, But I’ve seen Comments from travellers being asked to wait outside as the club lounge is overcrowded. So the offerings must be at least palatable….I will check out the arrivals lounge and move to galleries if too busy.

        • qrfan says:

          Singapore isn’t going to leave from A gates and I’ve never experienced the B gate galleries lounge be anything other than tranquil, so I would head there if I was you.

          • Gordon says:

            Thanks for the advice.

          • Gordon says:

            NB. The lounge at Singapore airport has just reopened and reviews say it is nice.

          • numpty says:

            If flying out of SIN use the Qantas lounge, much better than BA lounge. Large lounge with good food, coffee and showers.

      • BJ says:

        In March/April my partner took his first ever flight on QR and I was curious to see what he thought. Comprised business class on 788, 777QS, and a380. He was satisfied but not particularly impressed, ranking it behind BA CW over all, and in-flight dining the worst of any airline he’s flown in business class (and he does know food). His ranking of business class in order of preference is CX, JL, SQ, EK, TK = BA, QR = MH = LH = TG. I don’t agree with him on that but found it interesting. However, I agree with him that BA CW is nowhere near as bad as many here like to suggest. Personally I think differences between carriers operating same generation of hard products is small, and I’m just happy to be in any C seat and not down the back.

        • qrfan says:

          I haven’t flown QR since COVID-19, but I’ve flown 8 long haul sectors with them on 777, A380, A350 and 787s all in J, and dozens of BA CW sectors in J on all planes, including club suite and even the mid-haul A320. I can’t think of a single BA J experience that beats the worst of the QR J experiences. Some of the BA F experiences don’t even match QR J. If you look at the OMAAT review of Qatar from a few days ago then it seems nothing has changed post-covid, and frankly your partner’s comparison to current CW one-tray offering is laughable.

          • BJ says:

            I’ve done three returns to BKK, two from LHR and one from EDI. All were fine but mothing special, definitely had better flights on BA. I do like Qatar T4 lounge except when the staff are over attentive.

        • numpty says:

          I see where your partner is coming from in part. I flew QR out of EDI in April and found it a real mixed bag; Swissport staff at EDI were consistently awful (there was quite a list of problems with them from check in to boarding i.e. I don’t think you should have staff shouting at disabled passengers when you let them freely access the air bridge without checking their passes and then as a business class passenger got caught up in the ‘discussion’).

          Also at EDI there is no fast track security access (QR staff told they don’t think its worth paying for). At Doha transit there is a fast track security, but its badly signed and generally ignored. The QR lounge at Doha was full, wandering around a vast lounge at 2am (local time) looking for a seat isn’t a lux experience – although the lounge staff were doing a good job in assisting everyone. But the QR food in the lounge and flights was very good, better than BA First.

          But in comparison to flying direct to Asia from LHR I truly hate any transit experience in the middle east. With BA (or MAS, or CX) I get on the plane, eat, sleep, breakfast, get off the plane and feel fine – ME carriers experience is much tougher, lack of decent sleep and then fatigued on arrival. Also for whatever reason I always sleep well on BA in F or J and that’s of high importance. I’d avoid doing an ME carrier to Asia unless it includes a 2 day stopover (which I wouldn’t want to do!).

          • BJ says:

            Seems like a bad day at EDI. Don’t know why you didn’t get fast track. Totally agree on the 2am experience and Mourjan lounge in DOH but a more sociable schedule returning soon. I also prefer the longer flights from LHR as I also like to sleep most of the journey.

  • Hardy says:

    Let’s raise a toast to Alex Cruz, screwing up stuff even after leaving.

    • Tim says:

      Managed to piss off both staff and customer. A special talent that man had.

    • Jonathan says:

      Raise a toast for him ? He hasn’t done anything good… (apart from when he left)

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    Which management muppet thought that one out?

    Pay new staff more, and expect the old ones to show them how the job is actually done on the ground!

    All at a time when almost every business has a “staff wanted” sign on the door.

    The lesson from the 1960s – when we last had “full employment” – was that there was no need to strike if you wanted better pay or conditions. You just left your job and started a new one.

    The airline industry’s 2022 problem is that – because of security clearances etc – they can’t get people just starting the new job straight away. But people can still leave straight away and walk into another job.

    • Marcw says:

      Hoorah! I just got a 100% pay rise by switching jobs!

    • Lady London says:

      Muggins here was caught coaching newbies it turned out were paid 20-30% more earlier in her career. What a muppet I was.

      Unfortunately in those days employers could con the best into staying behaving like this. These days the HfP readership is so, so much cleverer about these things.

  • Cranzle says:

    I’ve been seeing a lot of adverts on my social media feeds for BA staff recruitment. The salary for cabin crew is £16800.

    • Gordon says:

      No wonder they are short staffed, As a gross figure that’s not going to go far in the current financial climate….

      • tony says:

        I was listening to commercial radio yesterday evening – BA were advertising for ground staff on that, which was a new one for me!

      • G says:

        It wasn’t going to go far anyway before COVID.

        17k salary (especially when you live in the Berkshire area if based at LHR) is beyond a joke.

        • mkcol says:

          You have to live within 2 hours commute of LHR, so even that far away £17k + allowances isn’t going to go far.

          • Nick says:

            Who said you have to live within 2 hours? Plenty of BA crew live in Scotland or Wales, many in other European countries, all commute for work.

            You have to agree to occasional standby duties, but that’s the only time you need to be within X mins of the airport.

          • numpty says:

            Has there been a rule change? A load of crew live in Scotland, and a lot lived in Paris (which was/is well connected to London). I know of some staff that when rostered on standby would fly down and wait in the crew room until the last potential flight they were to be called up for had departed then they were free to head home. When on standby you also had to take an educated guess at what to pack when downroute – SIN v NYC in December are very different temps.

    • Sarah says:

      Not sure how that’s legal. Actual pay must be higher as that’s below NMW for full time

  • Cranzle says:

    “Whilst BA has said that it has no problem attracting people to work as cabin crew”

    Is there a source for this?

    Seems that care to comment on this rather than any of the poor service issues.

    • Dubious says:

      Attracting…what about retaining too?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, IAG said this in the results presentation the other week.

      • Nick says:

        Oddly (and it’s a surprise to everyone, even BA), there isn’t a problem with Heathrow crew other than the well/publicised ID issues that aren’t their fault. Gatwick short haul is admittedly a different story. After two years of being stuck at home I think the prospect of getting out in the world is attractive, to both new and existing crew. Interestingly a hefty proportion of the new joiners are mid-life career changers – even with low pay people are queueing to do it because covid has given them a push to do something more exciting.

        The ground issue/new staff pay rates are a huge problem in head office as well though. Recruitment at waterside is so difficult that they now have approval to pay new entrants much higher rates… but only them so this just annoys old staff who’ve been given 1-2% in most cases. Quite a lot are leaving, but even if they don’t they’ll naturally become less productive after they’ve taught someone more junior who’s on higher pay (arguably this is worse). It won’t end up in strikes but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were widespread Alex-era discontent in a few months, particularly given how many managers have had their pay cases rejected by MC.

    • Londonsteve says:

      This sounds like P&O saying that they have no problem attracting passengers.

      • speedy66 says:

        In the last 2 weeks, we have had 2 letters from P&O Cruises advising us that they are not the same company as P&O Ferries. You would think P&O Ferries would rebadge to DWP Ferries after the hiatus like AIA and Anderson did when caught up in controversies.

  • Derek Scott says:

    I suspect there’s a clever technicality at play here. I’ve seen online ads for new staff, with a £1,300 “signing bonus”… so not actually a pensionable salary increase but a One-off payment.
    This may, or may not, breach the terms referenced by the Union

    • Erico1875 says:

      I regularly see ads for bus drivers with these sign on bonuses.

  • Lionel says:

    Having worked for BA and been in Unite as a member the union were a lot of talk and their direct communication with members was dreadful. We relied on passed on messages from WhatsApp

    • Rich says:

      Yep, and you pay a fee to the Union from your salary for their excellent service!

      As for a breech – you can stick the Union in there and fire them into oblivion for all I care.

  • Phil W says:

    I cannot believe the irresponsibility of HfP passing on an inflation matching wage increase when we are all being urged to show wage restraint! I’m appalled. 😉

    • NorthernLass says:

      Is it being paid in points though?

    • Lady London says:

      Even the Bank of England was quite recently quoted as wanting workers in the UK economy to show restraint in requesting pay rises. Red mist has made me forget the exact wording but was quoted in the financial press.

      • Rob says:

        He earns £575,000 per year though, so is probably not too concerned if he gets less than 10% (although he almost certainly will).

      • Callum says:

        He said people, especially high earners, should “think and reflect” before asking for large payrises because it will likely increase inflation – i.e. the thing he is meant to be controlling. He then said that he’s not preaching about this, that people should be trusted to make their own judgement and (I’m paraphrasing) it’s a “society vs. individual” thing – i.e. your pay rise may be good for you but bad for society as a whole (if the payrises push up inflation, those who don’t get them will be even more worse off than they are now). I know many people in this country hate the idea that you should think about others instead of just focussing on yourself, but it’s a perfectly valid point to bring up.

        Contrary to Rob’s assumption, he has already specifically requested that the BoE doesn’t give him any pay rise at all – so he’s not had any increase this year. People can be a bit too quick to jump straight to malice.

        • Londonsteve says:

          I am responsible only for myself and my dependents. I want the biggest pay rise I can get, bearing in mind skills, employment market dynamics and bargaining power. Why should I care what indirect consequences this has on the economy or other people? Everyone else will do the same when it comes to their pay and benefits, why should I or anyone else be the benevolent ‘loser’ restraining my ‘greed’ at trying to get my salary to keep pace with inflation?

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