In a fast intensifying disagreement over compensation and working conditions at the struggling airline, British Airways cabin crew and ground personnel decisively voted in favor of supporting strike action.
More than 97% of participants in a consultative ballot that included members of the cabin crew, check-in agents, customer service employees, engineers, and other ground staff chose to support industrial action.
Every British Airways work group that the union represents participated in the vote, which was administered by the powerful Unite union. Now that the busy summer holidays are approaching, employees may be requested to participate in a formal strike ballot with any action intended to cause the most inconvenience possible.
“To anyone that has flown British Airways recently, this overwhelming consultative ballot result with come as no surprise,” the union said shortly after the ballot results were made public on Monday.
“British Airways’ management now can no longer ignore the universal discontent across their own workforce, in the way they have ignored the needs of their own customers,” the statement continued.
“Despite BA claiming hundreds of millions of pounds of furlough pay from the government, thousands of experienced staff were dismissed, and have simply not been replaced.”
The conflict centers on a wage agreement that was signed earlier this year and resulted in some lower-paid airline employees receiving a 10% salary boost. The union agreed to the proposal on the grounds that British Airways could only afford this amount and that no better offer would be made.
However, the agreement constitutes a “me too” clause that, in the event that BA did secure more funding for a certain group of employees, would apply to every other workgroup that was represented by Unite.
British Airways has increased the annual salary for new hires by £1,300 but hasn’t given the pay increase to all of its current workers because the company is having trouble filling key “below wing” positions.
“BA’s leadership created this chaos,” the union slammed. “The responsibility to resolve it lies entirely with the airline,” a spokesperson said, saying disgruntled customers should direct their ire at BA and not workers who are setting the stage for a crippling walkout.
“Two years of job and pay cuts means that BA customers and staff are unfortunately paying the price through sky-high ticket prices, rock bottom service levels, and non-existent morale. Staff is simply no longer willing to excuse, or pay the price for poor management decisions”.
A formal strike must be held before employees are permitted to stage one because the consultative ballot does not authorize a legally binding strike. The conflict is different from the formal strike ballot being held by hundreds of check-in personnel, who are calling for the restoration of their pay and benefits to levels prior to the pandemic.
Due to a lack of workers, British Airways may have to postpone hundreds of flights over the coming months. In the midst of calls to reform immigration laws so that jobs can be filled with less expensive immigrant labor, the airline industry and the UK government are engaged in a verbal battle over who is to blame for the chaos.