If you think that your chances of flying off for the Summer are already looking dodgy, British Airways check-in staff at London Heathrow have voted for strike action.
It wasn’t exactly marginal, with a 95% ‘yes’ vote on a turnout of 80%.
This only applies to those staff who are members of the GMB union, although as we will explain that is not necessarily going to remain the case.
You can’t really argue with the basis for the strike.
Check-in staff at Heathrow took a 10% pay cut during covid as part of attempts to minimise redundancies and keep the airline afloat.
With the airline now back to something close to full capacity, staff want the 10% pay cut reversed. They are NOT looking for any pay rise on top of this, despite 9.1% inflation – they only want their pre-pandemic pay restored.
British Airways is offering a one-off bonus of 10% but is not offering to return base salaries to their previous levels.
Other unions are also looking at strike action
The Unite union is also balloting its members at Heathrow for a parallel strike. This vote is due to close on 27th June.
To add to the fun, British Airways engineering and call centre staff are also voting in consultative ballots to assess their own willingness to strike. If the vote is positive, a full strike ballot will follow.
When would a strike happen?
Under UK law, any industrial action must follow a 14 day notice period. (This is why we were happy in the HfP office yesterday, as it means that our Summer party on 6th July cannot now be disrupted by a tube strike.)
It is likely that the unions would wait until the start of the school holidays in order to maximise disruption and to give the airline time to negotiate.
The best way to avoid the strike is to book your BA flights from Gatwick or London City this Summer. The airline uses outsourced staff at these airports and they are not balloting for strike action. That said, any strike by engineering staff would appear to cover Gatwick too.
We said, they said ….
Nadine Houghton, national officer for the GMB, is quoted as saying on Radio 4:
“BA decided to use fire and rehire very opportunistically during the pandemic to cut our members’ pay and conditions at a time when they are unable to fight back and to defend themselves.
All our members are asking for — and these are primarily low-paid working women working on the front line — is the 10 per cent they had robbed from them during the pandemic back. They’re not asking for a pay rise. They just want the money back that they’ve had taken from them.”
In a statement, British Airways told us:
“We’re extremely disappointed with the result and that the unions have chosen to take this course of action. Despite the extremely challenging environment and losses of more than £4bn, we made an offer of a 10% payment which was accepted by the majority of other colleagues. We are fully committed to work together to find a solution, because to deliver for our customers and rebuild our business we have to work as a team. We will of course keep our customers updated about what this means for them as the situation evolves.”
It doesn’t help, of course, that IAG CEO Luis Gallego is in line for a £4.9 million pay package this year if the group hits its financial targets, as seems likely. There was a revolt against the package at the recent AGM by various institutional shareholders – one of whom called the package ‘excessive’ – but it still passed.
It also emerged that Gallego is given £250,000 per year in expenses to allow him to rent a home in Madrid alongside his existing property in London, given that he shuttles between the two cities.