British Airways is facing significant disruption in its cargo handling business in the run up to Christmas as members of Unite prepare to ballot for industrial action.
The dispute is a result of British Airways’ highly controversial plans to fire and rehire its entire workforce on vastly reduced pay.
While Unite has finally been able to secure agreements to mitigate the company’s plans for most of its workers, this has currently proved impossible in the case of the cargo workers based at Heathrow Airport, where Unite has in excess of 850 members.
The workforce has been forced to sign new contracts resulting in pay cuts of between 20-25 per cent.
To make a difficult situation worse, British Airways is also threatening to outsource the workforce and appoint a sub-contractor to operate this part of the business.
British Airways is also trying to renegotiate and weaken the collective bargaining agreement with Unite.
Members will begin to be balloted on Thursday, November 19 and the ballot will close on Monday, December 7. If members vote for industrial action, strikes could begin shortly before Christmas.
Ironically, while the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the number of airline passengers being dramatically reduced, cargo services have remained very healthy and are a vital revenue stream for the company at the present time.
The workforce have continued to operate throughout the current lockdown and played a crucial role during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, helping to bring vitally needed PPE into the country.
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,” he added.
“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.”
By Barckley Sumner