Unite, the UK’s principal aviation union, is preparing to ballot members for industrial action due to the airline’s plans to ‘fire and rehire’ staff on reduced pay and terms.
British Airways is facing the prospect of significant disruption to its cargo handling business in the crucial Christmas period, as Unite are preparing to ballot their members for strike action.
Unite the Union represents cargo handlers working for British Airways at Heathrow Airport, who are not happy with the airlines controversial plans to ‘fire and rehire’ staff on reduced employment terms.
Although the union has recently been able to secure agreements with the airline to mitigate the company’s plans for a lot of its current workers during the coronavirus crisis, it says it has not been possible to reach an agreement for the cargo workers based at Heathrow – where Unite has over 850 members.
As well as forcing workers to sign new contracts with pay cuts of between 20-25%, British Airways is also threatening to outsource much of the workforce and appoint a sub-contractor to operate the cargo handling business.
Unite will begin to ballot members next Thursday 19 November and the ballot is scheduled to close on Monday 7 December. If the union’s members vote in favour of industrial action then strikes could begin just before Christmas – significantly disrupting an area of British Airways’ business that has remained stable during the coronavirus pandemic.
While the pandemic has drastically reduced the number of airline passengers, cargo services have remained very healthy during this period and are currently a vital revenue stream for British Airways.
The cargo workforce has continued to work throughout the current lockdown and played a significant role in bringing vital PPE supplies into the country during the first COVID-19 wave.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “British Airways are once again treating its workers with contempt.
“Cargo workers have worked throughout the pandemic and have continuing to provide a highly profitable revenue stream for British Airways and all the thanks they have received is a huge pay cut.
“Workers are faced with the double whammy of operating in incredibly challenging conditions due to Covid-19 while worrying about how they will provide for their families, especially with Christmas fast approaching.
“Unite remains committed to resolving this dispute via negotiations and will engage in talks at ACAS. However, BA needs to drop the threats of outsourcing and imposition of new contracts under the threat of ‘fire and rehire’ and be prepared to reach agreement on a fair deal for our members if they are to avoid industrial action.”
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