Published on Thursday, December 15, 2016

Strike threat to Christmas flights

British Airways cabin crew yesterday voted for strikes, which could start as early as December 21.

At the same time, Virgin pilots are threatening industrial action which could hit the airline's services from December 23.

More than 2,500 of BA's 4,000 newest cabin crew on 'mixed fleet' contracts, who are members of the Unite union, were balloted and 79% were in favour of industrial action. However, the turnout was low with only 60% casting a vote.

Unite had previously rejected a 2% pay rise.

It must now give the airline seven days' notice of any strikes, which must take place within a month. Any action will affect both long- and short-haul flights from Heathrow.

Unite has not finalized any dates for industrial action or said whether it intends to strike over Christmas. Instead, it has called on BA to 'negotiate a genuinely meaningful way forward'.

In a statement, the union said: "Since 2010 all British Airways new cabin crew employees have joined the 'Mixed Fleet'. Earnings were advertised between £21,000 and £25,000 but in reality start at just over £12,000 plus £3 an hour flying pay.

"The crew have rejected a two per cent pay offer and on-board customer service managers are furious they do not have collective bargaining rights. The managers have also endured a six year pay freeze. Meanwhile, Willie Walsh pocketed €8.8 million. British Airways and the parent company IAG reported profits of €1.4 billion, up 64 per cent on last year."

A BA spokesman said: "We are extremely disappointed that the union is creating uncertainty for our customers.

"Mixed Fleet Unite represents about 15% of our cabin crew. We remain focused on resolving this issue as quickly as possible without any disruption to customers."

The spokesman added: "We have proposed a fair and reasonable pay increase to Mixed Fleet cabin crew which is in line with that accepted by other British Airways colleagues and which will ensure their reward levels remain in line with cabin crew at our airline competitors."

The results of a ballot on 'industrial action short of strikes' by the Professional Pilots Union, of which 70% of Virgin's pilots are members, will be announced tomorrow.

The union, which is a breakaway from the long-established British Airline Pilots' Union, is threatening pilots will refuse to work overtime indefinitely, or until the airline recognizes the PPU.

A Virgin spokesperson said: "In principle we're prepared to recognise the PPU, but they're demanding that we also de-recognise Balpa, a long established and respected union."

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