Cargo workers at British Airways have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in the ongoing dispute over the airline’s plans change the employment terms of conditions of its entire workforce.
The UK’s leading aviation union, Unite, which represents cargo workers at British Airways has announced the workforce has voted 98% in favour of strike action in a dispute over the company’s plans to ‘fire and rehire’ staff on what the union calls “vastly inferior terms and conditions”.
The union represents around 850 BA cargo workers, which include firefighters, engineers, security staff, baggage operators, operational and airside workers – and announced they were balloting members over strike action last month.
Unite have claimed the airline is “bullying” workers into taking on new contracts on lesser terms, which the union has suggested could see staff lose up to £8,000 of their income – a quarter of their annual salary – and affect up to 4,000 workers at Heathrow Airport.
In announcing the results of the ballot, Unite said: “BA is attempting to force the cargo workers to accept new contracts which will result in many of them experiencing pay cuts of between 20-25 per cent, with the entire workforce experiencing significant reductions to its terms and conditions.
“Unite has reached agreement with British Airways in all the other sections of the company where it represents workers, to mitigate its proposals to slash workers’ wages, but has been unable to do so for the cargo workers due to the continued intransigence of management.”
The union also said it will delay announcing the dates od the strikes to give British Airways a “final opportunity to reach a fair resolution and agree changes with its workers”.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Unite members have stood up to the industrial aggression of British Airways and have overwhelmingly voted for strike action.
“The huge yes vote by cargo workers must act as a final wake up call to British Airways.
“Unite is delaying the announcement of strike dates to allow Shaun Doyle, British Airways’ new chief executive, to do the right thing. He needs to withdraw the threats of firing and rehiring its cargo workers and hammer out a fair deal for this loyal workforce.
“If British Airways fails to grasp this opportunity for peace then Unite will swiftly move to strike action which will cause huge unnecessary disruption to British Airways cargo deliveries.”
Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King said: “Workers are taking strike action as a direct result of Heathrow Airport’s brutal proposals to fire and rehire them on greatly reduced wages.
“The airport is using the Covid-19 pandemic as a smokescreen to permanently cut workers’ pay.
“Unite has put forward several alternative suggestions to reduce staffing costs on a temporary basis, all of which have been summarily rejected by management.
“The way that workers, who are already suffering extreme levels of stress and anxiety, are being treated by Heathrow Airport’s management, demonstrates that they have apparently learned all their skills of tact and diplomacy from Donald Trump.
“These decisions will turn Heathrow from one of the most successful airports in the world into a workplace run on bullying and intimidation, it’s disgraceful.”
In response, a Heathrow spokesperson said: “It’s very disappointing that Unite has decided to take strike action during the worst crisis to hit the aviation sector.
“Our focus has been to protect jobs – which is why we’ve offered every frontline colleague who wants one a job at a market rate salary above the London Living Wage, even despite a loss of over £1.5bn to our business so far this year.
“We do not believe this strike action is necessary, but have activated extensive contingency plans which will keep the airport open and operating safely throughout this period.”