3-May-2010 9:17 AM

Unite commences voting on latest offer from British Airways

British Airways union, Unite, announced (30-Apr-2010) it has commenced balloting its 12,000 cabin crew on the latest offer from British Airways management, with a strong recommendation that they reject the proposal. Joint General Secretary, Tony Woodley, stated there are three main reasons why they should vote to reject the offer:

  • The failure of BA to fully restore travel concessions to all crew who took industrial action. BA will take away "seniority"-based travel which means that crew with long service will lose out disproportionately to those with less service. BA CEO, Willie Walsh, advised workers he would consider restoring travel concessions once the carrier’s pay proposal and other reforms are established, on the condition that staff who took part in the strike lose all accrued concessions (Bloomberg, 30-Apr-2010);
  • The company's disciplinary action against over 50 crew, suspended on charges arising from the dispute. Unite propose that action which results in dismissal go to an appeal hearing to be heard by a third party such as Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), but BA refused to agree;
  • The most general reason for rejection relates to Unite's loss of trust in BA's commitment to finding a solution to the dispute. [more]

The ballot of BA cabin crew members will close on 07-May-2010. The union plans to discuss a new industrial action strategy this week, with new strike dates to possibly be announced the day after the UK general election, should staff vote against the latest offer (The Observer, 02-May-2010). Unite is reportedly considering strike action of up to 12 days.

Unite: “This plan [removal of travel concessions] aims to treat loyal employees and trade unionists as permanent second-class citizens, branded for having supported the union and humiliated for having taken democratically-endorsed and fully-legal strike action. There is no way on earth this union could ever accept such a sanction. The fact that management has been so insistent on its position on this matter, even though it is an issue of almost no financial consequence, must inevitably give rise to concerns about BA’s entire attitude and outlook to the future of industrial relations ... Any agreement is only as good as the integrity and sincerity of those putting their names to it. By their actions and behaviour throughout the dispute, and continuing to this day, it is impossible to take BA management’s words at face value. I have had a considerable experience of strikes and disputes. Normally, the sort of issues we are referring to here – the removal of sanctions imposed during a strike, the speedy and sensitive winding down of all but the most genuinely serious disciplinary issues arising from a dispute – are straight-forward matters of industrial common sense, dealt with swiftly once the issues of substance between the two sides have been resolved. Yet in this case it is precisely on these issues that management has proved most intransigent of all. This is at the very least a major failure of industrial statesmanship by Mr Walsh, fanning the flames of conflict at the very moment when peace would otherwise have been at hand. At worst, it is a clear statement of intent – that the company wishes to break trade unionism among its cabin crew, not by a formal act of de-recognition (unattainable under present legislation because of our collective strength and organisation), but by a process of bullying, humiliation and piece-meal victimisation until you are left with no effective protection or the smallest measure of control over your working environment,” Tony Woodley, Joint General Secretary. Source: Unite, 30-Apr-2010.

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