British Airways strike extended as cabin crew 'poverty pay' dispute deepens

Mixed Fleet cabin crew strike will now cover August bank holiday weekend

Simon Calder
Thursday 03 August 2017 13:16 BST
If the extension goes ahead, it take the total stoppages since the start of the year to more than 10 weeks
If the extension goes ahead, it take the total stoppages since the start of the year to more than 10 weeks (Simon Calder)

The long and bitter dispute between British Airways and some cabin crew belonging to the Unite union has intensified.

The union has announced a further two-week strike by staff working for the Mixed Fleet operation at Heathrow. It will begin on 16 August, immediately after the current stoppage ends, and continue to 30 August. The spell includes the August bank holiday, which is one of the busiest times of the year.

If the strike goes ahead, it will mean that Mixed Fleet cabin crew have been on strike almost continuously throughout July and August, and will take the total stoppages since the start of the year to more than 10 weeks.

BA has withdrawn travel privileges from staff who have taken industrial action. Last week the airline offered to restore them if the current strike – which began on 1 August – was called off. The airline says this was “the biggest outstanding issue in the dispute”, and the concession was made “in order to bring the dispute to an end”.

But Oliver Richardson, Unite’s national officer said: “Strike action will continue until the end of August unless British Airways hammers out a deal with Unite to resolve this dispute.

“The airline needs to get around the negotiating table and start recognising that punishing low-paid workers fighting for fairer pay is no way for a ‘premium’ airline to behave.

“The offer to reinstate travel concessions for striking workers is half-hearted and fails to deal with the money British Airways has taken away from low-paid workers.”

Mixed Fleet was set up in 2010 as part of the settlement of the last big cabin crew dispute at British Airways. Staff have inferior employment terms to longer-serving cabin crew.

Unite estimates that Mixed Fleet cabin crew earn £16,000 annually, including allowances. British Airways says it does not recognise this figure, and that the lowest-paid full-time member of Mixed Fleet earned more than £21,000 last year.

A BA spokesperson said: “As we have done in previous periods of industrial action we will ensure our customers reach their destinations.

“More than three months ago Unite agreed that our pay deal was acceptable but have since refused to ballot their members on it.”

The strike is having limited impact on operations, largely because BA has borrowed planes and pilots from its part-owner, Qatar Airways, to fly short-haul routes.

For long-haul cancellations, Thursday followed a now-typical pattern. The 4.05pm departure from Heathrow to Chicago has been cancelled, along with the overnight return, with booked passengers moved to other services. The 9.50pm round-trip from Heathrow to Doha has been grounded, with passengers transferred to Qatar Airways. And the 4.35pm from Gatwick to New York JFK has been cancelled, so the rostered cabin crew can be redeployed at Heathrow. Passengers are being moved to BA’s Heathrow-New York flights.

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