THE THREAT of a strike over the bank holiday weekend has forced British Airways (BA) management to give significant concessions over pay.
But workers’ anger reignited this week as bosses highlighted a new sickness policy that is also part of an agreement struck with the TGWU and GMB unions.
The media went into overdrive to try to turn the public against us, and to weaken the morale of baggage handlers, check-in staff and other grades.
We stuck to our guns and were incensed by the media witch-hunt.
The boss of BA, Rod Eddington, sits on the board of Rupert Murdoch’s News International, which owns the chief witch-hunter, the Sun.
The deal we have got covers two years and nine months, and gives pay rises that keep pace with inflation throughout.
It is backdated to October of last year, so there is a real gain of between £100 to £200 for all grades.
There will also be a £1,000 one-off bonus delivered in parts over the course of the deal.
But we have forced BA to grant it to everybody rather than it being tied to people’s sickness record.
We’ve also got management to scrap discriminatory new starter rates.
There is now an implicit understanding that the company will phase out the swiping in and swiping out system that led to last year’s lightning walkouts by check-in staff.
On the downside, the unions have agreed to a new sickness policy which is worse than most of those that currently cover the different grades.
Management, of course, are exempt from the policy. Cabin crew will have to sign up to it if they want their £1,000 bonus.
There is talk of the company introducing incentive schemes to cut absence.
But the real issue that should be addressed is the stress that is making people ill.
This latest dispute shows that BA is scared of what will happen if we go on strike.
It is a sign that airport workers have tremendous potential power.
That’s something we have to build on with the kind of initiative from rank and file workers and lay union reps that is beginning to develop.
WORKERS AT United Airlines at Heathrow also voted last week for a one-day strike on bank holiday Friday.
The TGWU union has about 700 members at United.
Ground staff, baggage handlers and check-in staff voted by 93 to 7 percent for strikes on a turnout of over 70 percent.
The company is only offering inflation plus 0.5 percent.