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Holidaymakers face ‘mass disruption’ as airport workers vote for strike

Written by Javed Iqbal

Britain is preparing for a summer of “massive disruption” after British Airways workers voted for a strike on the same day that the railways were almost shut down by labor struggles.

Ground staff at the airline’s Heathrow hub overwhelmingly supported a strike in their fight to reverse wage cuts imposed during the Covid pandemic.

Up to 1,000 workers will be involved in the strike, which the GMB Union said “is likely to be during the high summer holiday period”.

“Holidaymakers are facing massive disruption thanks to British Airways’ pig head,” it said.

Downing Street said further strikes “will only contribute to the misery faced by passengers at airports”. A spokesman promised to “look at what emergency measures BA could take” to get around the action.

It happens when passengers faced another full day of strikes by transport workers while Britain’s largest education union, National Education Association (NEU), and junior doctors have also warned that they could pursue labor struggles later this year or next year if the government does not meet the requirements for improved pay and conditions.

Ministers and business leaders are now weighing the potential outcome of a summer of discontent if workers across public and private services go on strike and win offers of better pay.

The government is set for push laws through that allow companies to replace the strikers’ workforce with temps as early as Monday. However, it is unlikely that it will succeed in using random labor to replace striking workers, except against the lowest paid or less skilled workers.

The worsening cost of living crisis could provoke further industrial conflicts in the coming months, said Yael Selfin, chief economist at auditing firm KPMG. If this leads to higher wage offers, it would “worry” politicians who set interest rates in the central bank, she added.

“The risk of a recession has increased,” Ms Selfin said, adding that higher energy costs and supply chain disruptions due to Russia’s war in Ukraine had put pressure on British households.

Strikes triggering higher wage settlements “are going to worry the Bank of England”, she said.

“It is likely to increase costs and see interest rates rise further and faster. That would mean an even deeper weakening as higher interest rates slow down the economy,” Ms Selfin said.

Rising prices for basic goods and services drove inflation to a new 40-year high of 9.1 percent in the 12 months to May, according to official figures released this week.

Wages, meanwhile, rose by about 4 percent in the three months to April.

The pain for households is expected to worsen, and the Bank of England estimates that inflation could reach around 11 per cent later this year.

The Heathrow strike involves British Airways ground staff, predominantly low-paid women. Members of the GMB association voted 95 percent in favor of a strike. The turnout was 80 per cent. Members of the union Unite in the same group of workers are also expected to vote for strike.

Insiders have suggested that a first strike action could take place as early as the weekend of 9 and 10 July, coinciding with the first weekend of the summer holidays for many schools in England.

“BA has tried to offer our members crumbs from the table in the form of a one-time bonus of 10 percent, but this does not cut into mustard,” said Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer.

They demand that BA reinstate a 10 percent cut from those during the pandemic. They claim that “the bosses’ salaries have returned to pre-pandemic levels”, with Luis Gallego – CEO of BA’s parent company IAG – queuing for a payout of 4.9 million. GBP this year.

“Our members need to reintroduce the 10 per cent they had stolen from them last year, with full arrears and the 10 per cent bonus that other colleagues have been paid,” Mrs Houghton said.

“It’s not too late to save the summer holidays – other BA workers have had their pay cuts reversed,” she said, adding: “Do the same for the ground and check-in staff and this fighting action can be stopped in the bud.”

Former Chancellor John McDonnell, whose seat in west London is home to many Heathrow workers, said The independent: “BA used the pandemic to lower wages, and it is therefore no surprise that workers are seeking to recover that loss now that airport operations are returning to normal and they are facing a cost-of-living crisis.

“The possible use of agency personnel will exacerbate this type of dispute and encourage an extension of any action.”

Meanwhile, there were few signs of progress in the rail dispute.

“Our members are at the forefront of standing up for all working people who are trying to get a pay rise and some job security,” said RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch.

“In a modern economy, workers need to be properly rewarded for their work, enjoy good conditions and have peace of mind that their jobs are not being taken from them.”

It was followed by a statement that more railway workers should vote on strikes, threatening new disruptions in the industry.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) announced that dozens of members of TransPennine Express (TPE) had voted in favor of strike action and action other than strike in a dispute over pay, terms and job security.

Voting opens on June 29 and closes in mid-July, so the earliest that can be cast is July 27.

TSSA also selects its members in Network Rail, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Trains, Avanti West Coast, Northern, LNER, C2C and Great Western Railway (GWR) in an escalating battle across the railroad.

A spokesman for TUC said: “Working people are at the breaking point after the longest and hardest wage squeeze in 200 years.

“Despite the cost of living in emergencies, ministers are determined to keep workers’ wages down – while closing their eyes to shocking profits in the city.

“This is the same government that promised us a high-wage economy. Keeping wages down and attacking unions will not achieve that.

“With the prospect of a severe decline in living standards, it is only right that workers come together to defend their wages and conditions.”

A spokesman for British Airways said: “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 for a 10 per cent 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. Of course, we will keep our customers updated on what this means for them as the situation develops. ”

The independent understand that the 10 percent that BA offered was a one-time payment that would not be consolidated into base salary.

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Javed Iqbal

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