With the European summer holiday season around the corner, the Unite and GMB unions have called a meeting of British Airways check-in and ground staff to vote on a potential strike action. The strike would cause a serious disruption during the peak of mid-year travel. The call for a strike, the union has argued, is because of a 10% pay cut implemented during pandemic that was not reinstated once travel demand began to go up.
Under the cover of Covid, British Airways used the abhorrent fire and rehire practice to slash check-in and ground handlers’ pay by 10 per cent. In yet another disgraceful move, British Airways has now restored 100% of managers’ pay, but kept the cut for these workers.Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary.
According to the unions, the administrative and managerial parts of British Airways have already resumed their former salaries. Other employees have received a 10% bonus, while check-in and ground staff have not even had 100% of their wages reinstated.
“Under the cover of Covid, British Airways used the abhorrent fire and rehire practice to slash check-in and ground handlers’ pay by 10 per cent. In yet another disgraceful move, British Airways has now restored 100% of managers’ pay, but kept the cut for these workers. That’s why our members voted to proceed with a strike,” said Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary. Graham said that British Airways had the opportunity to restore pay levels, but failed to do so.
When the pandemic arrived and many countries closed their borders, British Airways decided to cut around 10,000 jobs. Now, the company is trying to cope with the surge in travel bookings by increasing its staff.
British Airways is planning to hire 6,000 new employees this year, according to Euronews. In the UK, this process can be time consuming because there are several steps required to make sure the candidates adhere to the security requirements specified by the government. As an alternative, BA is borrowing staff from Oneworld partner Finnair, and is trying to open a crew base in Madrid to compensate for the staff shortages.
Due to the shortage of personnel, the airline announced that it would reduce its number of flights by 10 per cent between March and October. Many customers have arrived at the airport only to be told they cannot board the plane due to overbooking. According to Euronews, others have been notified of flight cancelation less than 12 hours before departure. Many of its employees are on sick leave because of a spike in Covid infections. A spokesperson has admitted that the recent weeks have been “challenging for the entire industry.”
“We have three priorities: our customers, supporting the biggest recruitment drive in our history and increasing our operational resilience,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve taken action to reduce our schedule to help provide certainty for our customers and are giving them maximum flexibility to either re-book with us or another airline as close to their original departure time as possible, or to receive a full refund.”
British unions have acknowledged the problems now faced by several airlines, which do not have enough staff to replace those infected by Covid, but also state that there are difficulties recruiting new staff because the sector “has ceased to be attractive, due to the impact the pandemic has had on the salaries of pilots and crew,” denounced the Unite union.