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BA staff shortage threat

Poverty pay risks recruitment crisis
Alex Flynn, Thursday, December 1st, 2016

‘Bargain bucket’ pay rates for Mixed Fleet cabin crew at British Airways could lead to recruitment and retention problems for the UK’s national carrier warned Unite.


The warning follows an analysis by Unite of cabin crew starter rates at the UK’s leading airlines which shows rivals to BA, such as easyJet and Virgin, paying over £2,000 more to new members of cabin crew.


The ‘bargain bucket’ pay rates, which belie BA’s reputation as a premier airline, are forcing the airline to take drastic action to get new recruits claims Unite. According to reports, representatives of BA recently approached members of the public outside underground stations and the Westfield shopping centre asking if they would become a member of Mixed Fleet cabin crew.


Since 2010 all British Airways new cabin crew employees join what is called ‘Mixed Fleet’, where despite promises that pay would be 10 per cent above the market rate, basic salaries start at just £12,000 with £3 an hour flying pay. Unite has seen no evidence from the company of crew achieving anywhere near the advertised potential rate of £21,000 – £25,000 for the job.


Thousands of cabin crew working for British Airways ‘Mixed Fleet’ are currently voting on whether to take strike action over the right to bargaining rights and ‘poverty’ pay levels. The ballot closes on December 14 with a yes vote raising the possibility of strike action before the end of the year.


“The bargain bucket pay rates for Mixed Fleet cabin crew at British Airways are in stark contrast to its reputation of being a premium airline which charges premier prices,” said Unite regional officer Matt Smith.


“With basic salaries for new cabin crew more than £2,000 behind rivals such as easyJet and Virgin, British Airways could be facing a serious recruitment and retention problem in the near future.


“It’s shameful that while the boss of UK’s national carrier pockets £8.8m a year, cabin crew are eking out a living on little more than £12,000. British Airways needs to wake up to the anger building over poverty pay which has seen Unite recruit 500 new members since the start of the strike ballot.


“We urge British Airways to avoid sleepwalking into industrial action and do the right thing by its hardworking frontline staff by engaging with Unite to address poverty pay.”


Crude cost cutting

Unite has also warned British Airways against outsourcing and offshoring its customer service.


A ‘market testing’ exercise by British Airways of its customer service operations could result in the UK’s national carrier outsourcing and offshoring hundreds of call centre jobs based in Newcastle and Manchester.


The ongoing review by BA’s parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) is inviting external suppliers to look at the airline’s contact centre business and submit proposals to take it over.


Accusing IAG of engaging in a crude cost cutting exercise, Unite warned that outsourcing and offshoring would lead to a more fragmented and poorer experience for customers.


An update of the review, which covers 900 workers at BA’s call centre in Newcastle and around 500 in Manchester, is expected in the second quarter of 2017.


“This review is nothing short of a slap in the face for hardworking staff who have constantly adapted to changing markets, while continuing to deliver the highest level of customer service,” said Unite national officer Oliver Richardson.


“A cloud of uncertainty now hangs over the heads of workers who fear that their jobs will be outsourced or offshored as a result of this exercise. Such a scenario would lead to poorer customer service and a more fragmented experience for passengers.


“We urge IAG to resist the temptation to engage in a crude cost cutting exercise and repay its loyal workforce by keeping the customer service operations of our national carrier in–house.”


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