Strike threat grows despite pounds 1,100 bonuses

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The Independent Online
British Airways faces growing industrial unrest despite an announcement yesterday that its 58,000 workers were to receive a bonus worth at least pounds 1,100 for UK employees.

As union leaders prepared for a strike ballot of 8,500 cabin crew over the imposition of new pay and conditions, it emerged that a further 8,000 ground staff were heading for a vote on industrial action over the planned sell-off of the airline's catering division.

Management were also accused of provoking employees by staging a "midnight raid" on union offices on BA premises at Heathrow and Gatwick last Friday in which they allegedly stole T&G documents before changing the locks on doors.

Bill Morris, general secretary of the union, accused the company of behaving like "a 19th mill owner" and he demanded the return of the missing papers.

Amid signs of anger among sections of the workforce, the airline announced a pounds 94m payout to employees made up of an pounds 89m share of the profits and 10 free BA shares each.

The bonus marked the tenth anniversary of the privatisation of the national carrier, which yesterday revealed record pre-tax profits of pounds 640m.

The extra benefits are the equivalent of 3.3 weeks' basic pay - somewhat lower than last year's award which amounted to 3.9 weeks' wages.

Its decision to hand over 10 free shares was made because of the "efforts of employees in a particularly demanding year". Some union representatives, however, characterised the bonus as useful strike pay and said that it amounted to a simple bribe.

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