Unions give Go the cold shoulder

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The Independent Online
GO, British Airways' cut-price airline, has already hit severe turbulence over its plans for a streamlined industrial relations system.

Two of the country's largest unions have rejected an invitation to enter a "beauty contest" to see which one of them should represent employees and then preside over a three-year pay freeze.

The GMB general union and the Transport & General are also unimpressed with management's insistence that nearly one-third of employees' remuneration would be made up of performance-related pay.

Officials from both unions pointed out that pay rates at the airline, which will be based at Stansted in Essex, have been set between 20 and 30 per cent lower than wages paid by the parent company BA.

Sean Keating, a GMB national official, is tomorrow expected to receive backing from a delegate meeting for his plan to launch a recruitment campaign at Go and at existing low fare airlines Debonair, Ryanair and easyJet.

"Low-cost airlines are a growing part of the market, but we want to make sure that passengers are well looked after by well-paid and well-motivated staff," said Mr Keating.

He said it was "ludicrous" to ask a union to represent employees in circumstances where its first act would be to preside over a three year period in which wages would effectively be cut. "It may be a beauty contest as far as the employers are concerned, but management is asking unions to play the part of the beast."

George Ryde, a national officer at the Transport & General, which has the largest membership at BA, said there was no question of his organisation entering a such a contest, although it was prepared to continue a "constructive dialogue" with the company.

"In this country workers' have few legal entitlements, but they do have the right to belong to the union of their choice. Go ought to bare that in mind," Mr Ryde said.

The airline, which intends to operate services to Italy, Germany, Scandinavia, France and Spain, has already recognised Balpa as the union for pilots, but wants only one union to represent other staff. Apart from the T& G and the GMB, it is understood that the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, MSF, the technical and white collar union, and the non-TUC Cabin Crew '89 have also been involved in talks.

A spokeswoman for the company confirmed that management was in "constructive dialogue" with all relevant unions and hoped to announce which organisation had been selected at the end of April or the beginning of May, shortly before services begin.