Now BA pilots vote to accept 2.6% pay cut

Click to follow
The Independent Online

British Airways pilots have overwhelmingly accepted 2.6 per cent pay cuts as part of a package of measures to save the airline £26 million, it was announced today.

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) said its members voted by more than nine to one in favour of the pay cut, as well as a reduction of 20 per cent in some allowances.

Balpa said the turnout in the ballot was 83 per cent, with the result announced ahead of BA's annual meeting tomorrow.

The airline is seeking to cut thousands of jobs and freeze the pay of staff for two years to cut costs after making record losses of £400 million and facing a drop in demand for air travel because of the recession.

Jim McAuslan, general secretary of Balpa, said: "This is an unaccustomed position for a union to be in but we have pressure-tested the company's trading position and cost base and are satisfied that this step is necessary to help BA recover its position as one of the world's most successful airlines.

"Our members have backed that judgment and are leading the way in contributing to the turn-round plan. The package of measures will be implemented as soon as BA demonstrates delivery of the cost saving targets across the whole company."

Balpa said that as part of the deal, pilots would receive shares in the company in three years time worth £13 million.

The cost saving package involves pilots taking a pay cut of 2.61 per cent, a 20 per cent reduction in certain allowances, as well as accepting some changes in operations.

BA workers will use live lemmings to protest at the firm's cost-cutting plans outside what promises to be a stormy annual meeting tomorrow.

Union activists will parade the animals in cages, with the slogan that the company and its staff deserve better than the way BA is being led.

Chief executive Willie Walsh has warned that BA was facing a fight for survival as he sought agreement on thousands of job cuts and a two year pay freeze as part of drastic measures to save hundreds of millions of pounds.

As well as the lemmings protest, union members will hand out letters to shareholders as they arrive for the AGM in London on Tuesday, seeking their support for an agreement.

It was disclosed on Friday that cabin crew had offered to take a similar 2.6 per cent pay cut and have no salary rise until February 2011 to help the airline.

Unite put forward the offer as part of a series of pay and productivity proposals which officials said would achieve "substantial" savings.

A deadline for agreeing about 3,700 job cuts and a two-year pay freeze as well as changes to conditions passed without a deal on 30 June and talks are continuing to try to break the deadlock.

BA workers held a series of meetings at Heathrow today to be updated on the talks and on the unions' attempts to help make savings.

Mick Rix, national officer of the GMB said: "Employees have always backed BA and demonstrated a willingness to respond to circumstances and events that threaten the future of the airline. They do so because they recognise and value the company, and want to be part of the effort to revive its fortunes.

"The 2008 staff survey showed 89 per cent of employees were committed to helping BA achieve its goals, with 80 per cent proud to work for BA. That is why progress needs to be made at the talks and the lemming-like behaviour of BA management must stop."

BA said: "We are pleased that BA pilots have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the cost saving package. It involves a combination of reduced pay and increased productivity.

"Our engineers have also already voted in favour of changes to their working practices. Talks with our remaining trade unions, facilitated by the conciliation service Acas, are taking place."

Union officials will remind shareholders that BA posted record profits of £883 million the previous year.

It was disclosed over the weekend that Mr Walsh had won backing for a potential rights issue from the firm's biggest shareholders.

One analyst said the airline could be forced to call on shareholders for up to £500 million to shore up its finances.

The protesters will have two cages with 12 live lemmings outside the annual meeting in central London, and will hold up placards saying: "British Airways deserves better than to be led by lemmings", and: "Willie, time to head to the departure gate?"