The planned merger between travel firms TUI and First Choice could lead to a ballot for strike action by cabin crew at Thomsonfly, which is owned by TUI, unless there are guarantees of no compulsory redundancies.
The 1,500 of the key Thomsonfly workers are members of the T&G union through its British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA) branch. The union reported that talks this week with the company’s management and the Acas arbitration service have failed to resolve a dispute over compulsory job cuts.
The BASSA membership has given the T&G a massive 98 per cent mandate to oppose any further redundancies and base closures until the union is given a long-term commitment from the company on future job security.
“The duplication of operations between First Choice and Thomsonfly at several UK airports has given rise to strong concerns within BASSA,” said Kevin Hall, T&G regional industrial organiser. “It is the doubling up of work which has led to the mandate for an unequivocal assurance that Thomsonfly will not enforce any compulsory redundancies on cabin crew due to any restructuring or the integration with First Choice.”
“We have already seen closures at Leeds Bradford Airport and have been advised by Thomsonfly of its intention to close the Stansted and Bristol crew bases as of summer 2008,” he added. “We also understand that more recently First Choice has announced the closure of its Cardiff and Luton bases from 1 November this year.”
Mr Hall said it appeared to be quite clear to union members that both Thomsonfly and First Choice have accelerated their integration and decided without any consultation which bases will remain a Thomsonfly operation and which will remain with First Choice. He has made it clear in a letter to Thomsonfly’s Head of Cabin Services that without the assurance on no compulsory redundancies the T&G would have no other option than to act on the mandate that has been given from the members in the consultative ballot.
The T&G is already dealing with a possible 70 Cabin Crew redundancies at Thomsonfly at Stansted and Bristol airports for summer 2008 following closure of operations there. Union leaders are also dealing with the pay review for the current year of which they have been seeking a conclusion.
“We know the pressures of aviation and leisure travel all too well,” remarked Mr. Hall. “We know the travelling public look to the cabin crew as the face and voice of the airline they’re flying with. Thomsonfly should be under no illusion as to the potential situation they could find themselves in if they read this situation wrong. It’s our members’ jobs and their customers holidays which are at stake.”