Almost 3,000 British Airways cabin crew are stepping up strike action with a six-day walkout that began on Sunday in an escalating dispute about poverty pay. The striking workers, members of the Unite union, are in the mixed fleet division, a branch of predominantly younger and lower-paid BA recruits.
The strikes are for three days from Sunday 5 February, and again from Thursday 9 February. The action follows two strikes totalling five days in January, which forced BA to cancel scores of flights. BA leased planes and crew from Titan Airways to operate flights on its behalf.
In a letter sent to British Airways on 25 January, Unite representatives for mixed fleet cabin crew urged Britain’s national carrier to take a different route, saying: “Your reluctance to offer a reasonable pay deal to our members, yet spend what we believe is now reaching millions of pounds in trying to quash strike action, suggests money is available and this is a question of ideology. We urge you to recognise that there is a chance here for British Airways to take a different route.”
It goes on to add: “We urge you to avoid any further dispute and do the right thing for your cabin crew and our customers by engaging with mixed fleet Unite to negotiate a genuinely meaningful way forward. We would suggest that we get back around the table, with the starting point being the encouraging start that we made at Acas before Christmas.”
As part of the dispute British Airways mixed fleet cabin crew have so far staged two stoppages, resulting in five days of strike action. British Airways has had to resort to the cancellation of flights and “wet lease” (hiring planes with crew and sometimes fuel) from other airlines.
Commenting, Unite national officer Oliver Richardson said: “Rather than addressing poverty pay, British Airways is spending money hand over fist on chartering in aircraft to cover striking cabin crew.
“If it can afford to waste money in such a manner then British Airways can clearly afford to address pay levels which are among the lowest in the industry.
“We would urge British Airways to wake up to the determination of our members, who contribute massively to the billions of pounds in profits the airline generates, and get around the negotiating table to resolve the dispute and avoid a further six days of costly strike action.”
Since 2010 all new British Airways cabin crew employees join what is called “mixed fleet”, where despite promises that pay would be 10 per cent above the market rate, basic pay starts at just £12,192 with £3 an hour flying pay. Unite estimates that on average “mixed fleet” cabin crew earn £16,000, including allowances, a year.
Unite claims the crew members are on worse pay rates than others. Almost 50 flights were reportedly grounded earlier this month as a result of strike action.