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Fury at British Airways bosses’ cost cutting plans

Issue No. 2159

There is fury among British Airways workers at plans to cut costs through thousands of job losses and a two-year pay freeze.

More than 2,000 workers in the Unite union held a mass meeting on Monday.

They sent a strong message that they were not prepared to accept an assault on their pay, terms and conditions.

The packed mass meeting overwhelmingly rejected BA’s plans to slash costs and backed a union plan which officials said could save between £100 million and £130 million.

The workers, meeting close to Heathrow Airport, also voiced concern that they could face the sack if they resisted the cuts by taking industrial action, including strikes.

The airline set a deadline of 30 June to reach a deal on around 3,500 job cuts, a pay freeze and other changes, but no agreement was made.

The government conciliation service Acas was set to chair a meeting between management and unions on Wednesday, with union officials warning of the threat of compulsory redundancies among some workers.

According to Unite, “They have sent a very clear message that they don’t want us to make any further concessions that would lead to an assault on their terms and conditions.”

BA asked workers to take unpaid leave, reduce hours or even work for nothing for up to a month to conserve cash, a request that unions branded “insulting”.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh is far better placed to work without pay for a month – his monthly earnings of £61,000 are twice the average annual salary for cabin crew.

Unfortunately, Unite said it was prepared to consider a two-year freeze on pay, which it said would save £50 million.

The union also agreed to a review of the post of the purser among cabin crews.

The union say BA want to introduce a new “starter rate” of just £11,000, claiming this would lead to a two-tier workforce at the airline.

One union source close to the negotiations told the Press Association, “We believe BA is going through the motions with Acas and have a pre-arranged strategy for conflict.

“They are looking at compulsory redundancies as part of 2,500 job losses among cabin crew.

“They are also looking to resurrect the hated zero-hours contracts for customer service staff which led to the disastrous breakdown a few years ago.”

Pay cuts were agreed with leaders of BA pilots last month, but talks continued for the past few weeks with unions representing other groups, including cabin crew, baggage handlers and check-in staff.

Unions accused the airline’s managers of bullying staff into signing up, a charge denied by BA.

Officials said staff were pressured by email to accept one of the options presented to them or face a meeting with a BA manager.

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Tue 7 Jul 2009, 18:50 BST
Issue No. 2159
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