Sacked BA union man to appeal

Randeep Ramesh
Tuesday 08 April 1997 23:02

The highest-paid union official in Britain, sacked from his job with British Airways after allegedly attacking another official, is considering launching an appeal against the airline's decision.

Mike Coleman, who was earning more than pounds 100,000 from his BA job and as head of British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (Bassa 2000), is said to have assaulted and spat at Dave Fallon, an official of Cabin Crew '89, a small union which represents mainly long-haul staff.

The allegations were substantiated by an internal BA hearing. A final appeal, to a director of the airline, then upheld the decision to sack him last week.

However the union claims to have six witnesses whose accounts differ from that considered by the airline. According to a Bassa spokesman, Mr Coleman "is considering an appeal for unfair dismissal".

A BA spokesman said Mr Coleman could take the matter up at an industrial tribunal, but stood by its decision.

The spokesman said: "We can confirm that Mike Coleman has been dismissed. Physical assault is construed as gross misconduct for which dismissal is the appropriate sanction."

Bassa is affiliated to the giant Transport and General Workers' Union, which has nearly one million members. Yet the TGWU's general secretary, Bill Morris, receives an annual salary of only pounds 47,000. Mr Coleman picks up nearly pounds 50,000 a year just in commission on his members' pounds 120 annual union subscription.

Mr Coleman also gets a 7 per cent cut from union subscriptions and pounds 75 a day he receives from branch funds for union business. This is believed to top pounds 20,000 a year in addition to his salary.

Bassa has around 8,500 members, compared with the 3,500 members of Cabin Crew '89, which broke away from the association eight years ago.

Mr Coleman lives in a pounds 300,000 home in Hampton, south-west London. His children are privately educated.

The government's Trade Union Certification Office confirmed yesterday that it had conducted a year-long investigation into allegations of financial irregularity at Bassa, which involved interviewing Mr Coleman.

The Certification Officer, Ted Whybrew, decided to take no further action, writing in a letter to Mr Morris last month: "From what I have seen there is no evidence of a significant issue of financial corruption in which members' funds were diverted to private gain.

"But there is evidence of extremely bad administration, weak financial controls and non-implementation of the union's own rules regarding the control of branch finances."

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