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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.

  • Mick S says:

    It annoys when I read and hear about these militant groups wanting to march everyone out on strike. Perhaps the unions need to take a step back and realise the tax payer funded a lot of industries over the last couple of years with the furlough scheme. A lot of people should be thankful they still stayed in employment.
    Yes, we would all love a 10% pay rise – sadly dreams don’t come true.

    • Rob says:

      Time to change jobs then, because your standard of living is taking a permanent – note, permanent – decline if you don’t.

      • rob keane says:

        you think there is a job available for absolutely everyone currently employed in the country that pays 10% more than their current job ?

        • Colin MacKinnon says:

          Pal took a job as airside ground crew at Glasgow Airport. Pay around £10:50 an hour.

          Staff car park is a fast 15 min walk to terminal, then up a floor to security and then up another floor to click in – which is when pay starts, and stops.

          They could earn more per hour at Aldi, walk a minute in the rain to clock in and start earning and not drive so far.

          Why not? Well, they thought the airport would be a change and more interesting. But just wait until winter and a 15 min walk to arrive at work soaking wet, or arrive back at the car soaking wet!!

        • Callum says:

          Given Rob isn’t suggesting every single person in the country changes jobs to one paying 10% more overnight, I don’t think your assumption is remotely accurate….

      • Bob says:

        Why can’t cabin crew change jobs then, on the basis of your suggestion? Genuine question. As someone else has commented, you cannot simply get a 10% pay rise.

        • Rob says:

          Unfortunately for existing cabin crew, there is a never-ending stream of 18 year olds keen to see a bit of the world whilst living at home and happy with £17k.

          • Sarah says:

            £17k is less than minimum wage

          • Rob says:

            Not when your legal maximium flying hours per year are about 900. There are also various meal allowances etc which are counted towards salary.

        • numpty says:

          Cabin crew have an informal rank based on length of service with their airline (at least in the legacy airlines they do), which gives them preference over newer staff in certain situations. When they move to another airline they lose that length of service, and IIRC also have to go through the new airlines training course before they can start flying. So its not like in a regular job where staff jump ship to get promoted and more pay.

      • Thegasman says:

        Not really an option if you work for NHS in a clinical role as they have essentially monopoly employer status.

        Glad to know my 1% pay rise will slightly offset everyone else’s 10% thus preventing inflation taking off even further!

        Much as it’s not pleasant to hear, the BoE governor does have a point that in absence of productivity gains significant across the board wage inflation won’t actually benefit anyone.

    • G says:

      Clearly you sound like someone who hasn’t had to want for much.

      • Mick S says:

        not really. I lost a parent when I was 8 years old and took two paper rounds to help put food on the table. I left school at 16 to take an apprenticeship, again to help pay the bills.

        I’ve worked the 60 hour week, taken overtime whenever i could. I’ve made lots of sacrifices over my time. I spend my free time educating myself in other areas so I can generate extra income.

        • Oliver says:

          Sadly, your past experiences have clouded your judgement. You are exactly the type of person unions are trying to help.

    • Rui N. says:

      How are the taxpayers relevant in this conversation? The union is not demanding anything from the government. How weird.

      • ChrisC says:

        Indeed and BA staff pay income tax and national insurance and VAT etc etc etc

        And it’s quite clear that a lot of people didn’t stay in employment because if they were still employed BA wouldn’t be having the staffing issues it’s having!

    • Tony1 says:

      Well we are not cabin crew and ground staff are not well pay as train drivers. Let have a summer of strikes in aviation We all should pay more for flights We are in the job because we love working in the sector

      • Sarah says:

        your job wouldn’t love you back and British Gas don’t take “loving my job” as payment

    • Oliver says:

      Dreams come true if you join a union mate

    • Karen Farrar says:

      Just to point out most departments had to take a pay cut during the pandemic, some departments within British Airways a cut of over 15%.

    • Londonsteve says:

      Go unions! Give ’em hell. About time the working man was vested with some power since the neo-liberal project dismantled his or her say in society.

  • Matt Vaughan says:

    Once more unto the breech, dear friends, once more…or close up the picket line with our low-paid English workers!

  • Tracey says:

    Flew BA yesterday and the crew were one person down and two of the crew had been called in (unhappily) at short notice. Could see that the crew were struggling to cope being short staffed. Twice the seat belts signs went on, just to keep the gangways clear so staff could try and deliver meals at reasonable speed. 5 hour flight, but was 3.5 hours in before everyone had been served.

  • Mark says:

    If they’re that desperate for staff. Then the existing staff should just leave. wait a few weeks and then re-apply!

    • memesweeper says:

      This is exactly what will happen. Also, it tends to be the best and most motivated staff that leave first, and they are the least likely to return.

      A good business proactive ensures it pays appropriately (and has an attractive package) to retain the best talent, and constantly weeds out under performance. Unfortunately some other businesses just see salaries as a cost to be managed down. Just like “IT” or another “overhead”.

      • ChrisC says:

        And there is often a disconnect within the organisation.

        How much does it cost to train a new member of staff? If you retain staff then you end up spending less on recruitment processes and induction and training and so on which is ultimately cheaper for the organisation.

      • JDB says:

        You are, of course, right in principle but when 90% of your revenues suddenly disappear and you have a relatively high level of fixed costs as was the case for airlines and airports, desperate steps were needed. Totally unaffordable/unsustainable sums were being lost even after slashing jobs/costs.

        They may have made missteps on the way and not planned early enough for the hoped for recovery nor anticipated the tightening of the labour market post covid, but realistically it is difficult to see they could have done things hugely differently absent government assistance they didn’t want, nor would have been in the best interests of taxpayers.

  • James ware says:

    what ground staff work for BA ? my understaning was everyone on the ground worked for third party contractors

  • BJ says:

    What, and how many, staff are we actually talking about here? I was a bit surprised as I figured most ground roles would be farmed out to agencies and the likes of Menzies.

  • Callum says:

    I’m much quicker to mention when I disagree with you than when I agree, so I want to specifically point out that I have a great deal of respect for the way you look after your staff. I wish more employers would follow your example with fair pay.

  • Peter says:

    Where does it say the Union have asked for a 10% pay rise? The article mentions inflation will soon be 10%, the Union want ALL ground staff to be paid the same. Sounds fair to me.

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

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