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Go `beauty contest' triggers chaos among airline unions

GO, the cut-price offshoot of British Airways expected to start services in May, is facing a chaotic scramble for members among competing unions after a split emerged between the main labour organisations.

Some unions yesterday declared their readiness to enter a "beauty contest" arranged by the company to see who should represent employees, while others have refused to have anything to do with it on principle.

The deep difference of opinion means that while one union may be selected by management to represent staff, others will be actively recruiting employees in order to undermine the whole industrial relations system.

The Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union and the MSF white collar union have decided to make presentations to management in an attempt to be chosen as the single union to represent staff, but the Transport & General and the GMB general union are bitterly opposed to the arrangement. The latter argue that employees should choose which organisations they want to represent them, not employers. An MSF source said that his organisation would rather participate in a beauty contest than allow Go to become a non-union company.

Management wants the successful union to acquiesce over a three-year pay freeze and to agree to a system in which up to one-third of employees' remuneration is made up of performance-related pay. Union officials also point out that rates of pay at Go will be 20-30 per cent below those at the parent company BA.

Sean Keating, a national official at the GMB, has already launched a campaign to recruit Go staff together with non union members at competing cut-price airlines Debonair, Ryanair and easyJet. He said he was "disappointed" that sister unions had decided to participate in the process. "When we recruit members at Go, it will be irrespective of any agreement reached by management with another union," he said.

George Ryde, national officer at the T&G, pointed out that his union were the largest in the industry and would be seeking members at the new airline.