British Airways (BA) employees at Heathrow have voted to strike during the school summer holidays, in a move that should cause more travel chaos as the industry struggles to recover from the COVID pandemic.
Members of the unions GMB and Unite overwhelmingly supported the prospect of labor disputes over pay, and 95% of those who voted, in both unions, supported strike strikes at 81% and 63% respectively.
That means more than 700 BA check-in staff and ground handling agents could go out at the height of the summer season.
No strike dates have been announced as the unions suggested they wanted to give the airline some time to reconsider the key issue.
The unions are seeking to reverse a 10% pay cut on workers imposed during the pandemic as global shutdowns set off flights.
About 13,000 positions were also closed by BA.
The airline has offered a one-time bonus of 10%, but not a return to the same salary as before.
“With bleak predictability, holidaymakers are facing massive disruption thanks to British Airways’ ugly head,” Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, said in a statement.
“GMB members at Heathrow have suffered countless abuses as they deal with travel chaos caused by staff shortages and IT failures. At the same time, they have had their salaries cut under BA’s tough fire and re-employment policy,” she said.
“What did BA think would happen?”
Unite officer Russ Ball said: “The problems British Airways is facing are entirely its own work. It was brutally cut in jobs and wages during the pandemic, even though the government paid them to save jobs.”
BA ‘extremely disappointed’
It is understood that if strikes continue, those selected for action at Heathrow make up less than 50% of BA’s customer-facing team.
The airline replied: “We are extremely disappointed with the result and that the unions have chosen to take this approach.
“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 working together to find a solution, because in order to deliver to our customers and rebuild our business, we need to work as a team.
“We will, of course, keep our customers updated on what it means to them as the situation evolves.”
The strike action threatens further damage to BA as it struggles to get back on its feet after the COVID crisis to date.
Its efforts have been hampered by IT errors and staff shortages – the company refuses to confirm that it had shot itself in the foot during a investigation of the recent flight chaos of MPs earlier this month.
Wave of dissatisfaction
The prospect of strikes also follows a wave of discontent expressed by workers across the country in recent months.
Many are demanding higher wages to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.
About 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on Network Rail and 13 train operators have gone out this week.
This has been warned by RMT’s Secretary General railway strikes could “escalate” unless a settlement is reached for all workers in the industry.
Mick Lynch told Sky News that more train drivers could get into the fray – and “other people are voting in this industry too”.