Saturday 21 September 2019

Cabin crew at BA vote to strike over Christmas

BA chief Willie Walsh
BA chief Willie Walsh

Patrick Foster

British Airways passengers face disruption to flights over Christmas and the New Year after cabin crew voted overwhelmingly in favour of strikes.

The Unite union said its members backed walkouts by 4-1, giving the green light to strikes that could begin as early as December 21.

The pay dispute involves cabin crew who have joined the airline since 2010, with Unite claiming they earn less than other staff. Turnout in the ballot was 60pc. Unite said it was consulting reps over potential strike dates, with the union compelled to give BA seven days notice of strikes.

The move comes as Britain remains in the grip of a walkout by Southern Rail staff that has caused travel chaos for hundreds of thousands of commuters. Southern said yesterday that services will be "severely disrupted" today, even though drivers will not be on strike, as talks to end their dispute continue.

Unite represents around 2,500 workers out of a total of 4,500 in BA's so-called mixed fleet, which in turn makes up just over a quarter of the company's 16,000 cabin crew.

The union said that 1,519 staff had voted in the ballot, of whom 1,206, or 80pc, voted in favour of strike action.

The union claimed earnings were advertised between £21,000 (€25,000) and £25,000 (€30,000) but in reality started at just over £12,000 (€14,000) plus £3 an hour flying pay.

Unite regional officer Matt Smith said: "Our members have overwhelmingly voted for strike action because British Airways' pay rates are indefensible and the crew are at breaking point.

"Mixed fleet crew earn just over the minimum wage and below the national average. Significant numbers of crew are taking on second jobs, many go to work unfit to fly because they can't afford to be sick.

"British Airways bosses need to wake up to the anger and the injustice here. Not only are the pay rates indefensible but, in aviation, low pay is a safety issue. Thirty percent of the mixed fleet crew have been with the company for just under a year.

"Crew simply can't afford to stay. Inexperience, fatigue, and the fact that BA recently cut the length of crew training courses means Unite is genuinely concerned about the potential repercussions.

"We urge British Airways to avoid this dispute and do the right thing by both the frontline staff and the travelling public, by engaging with Unite."

A BA spokesman said: "We are extremely disappointed that the union is creating uncertainty for our customers. Mixed fleet Unite represents about 15pc of our cabin crew. We remain focused on resolving this issue as quickly as possible without any disruption to customers."

Irish Independent

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