Socialist Worker

British Airways cabin crew set to strike

Issue No. 2034

BA cabin crew workers applaud the ballot result (Pic: Vicky Williamson)

BA cabin crew workers applaud the ballot result (Pic: Vicky Williamson)

British Airways (BA) cabin crew have voted overwhelmingly for a strike over “management by imposition and the breakdown of respect”.

In an extraordinarily clear result, the T&G union members voted 8,132 for strikes with only 330 against. That means over 96 percent voted to strike.

Workers are angered by the management of sickness absence, which is putting cabin crew under pressure to turn up for work even when unwell.

In addition, the imposed abolition of some higher grades and lower rates for new starters mean that pay is being capped for nearly half the workforce.

On Monday hundreds of cabin crew attended a mass meeting near Heathrow airport to discuss the dispute. Workers stood and cheered as the ballot results were read out.

“I’ve never been so proud to be cabin crew as I am now,” one union member at the meeting told Socialist Worker. “We built the vote by talking to each other—that is much more powerful than all the propaganda the company puts out.”

Another worker said, “We want to make it clear that this isn’t an attack on passengers. It is passengers that suffer if cabin crew are tired, overworked, sick or demoralised.”

Negotiations with the company were continuing as Socialist Worker went to press. The union needs to call strike action to build on the momentum from the huge yes vote.

As one of the cabin crew told Socialist Worker as she left the mass meeting, “We’ve been talking too much for too long.”

Union rejects BA pensions offer

A meeting of GMB union shop stewards, who represent around 4,500 people working for British Airways (BA), last week unanimously decided to reject a pensions offer from the company.

The union will now hold a consultative ballot that will recommend that members reject BA’s final offer and vote yes for industrial action. The ballot was set to begin on Wednesday of this week.

Ed Blissett, the GMB national officer responsible for looking after members at BA said, “GMB is extremely angry and disappointed that the lowest paid workers are being disadvantaged in comparison to the highest paid.”

The unions are now split over the deal. Balpa, the pilots’ union, voted last week to endorse the agreement.

Shop stewards from Amicus, which represents some 5,000 BA workers, meet next week and are also expected to back the deal.

A key decision will come from the T&G. It is the biggest union at BA with more than 20,000 members. It covers cabin crew, ground services and check-in staff.

For many cabin crew the pension attack will link up with the other issues they are preparing to strike over.

It is right to reject the deal. Currently, ground staff pay 5.25 percent of their salary towards their pension and retire at ages between 60 and 63.

Flying crew are currently able to retire at 55 and pay in 6.5 percent of their salary a year. Under the new proposals, staff who want to continue paying 5.25 percent will now have to retire at 65.

And any staff member who wants to retire at 60 faces a massive increase to 8.5 percent a year. Any BA employee who wants their pension at 55 will have to pay a stratospheric 17.5 percent a year.

In a further cutback, pensions will build up at a slower rate than before.

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Sat 20 Jan 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2034
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