The BA cabin crew dispute: The view from the shop floor

It is easy to forget that the British Airways cabin crew dispute is about real people's lives; here, Left Foot Forward presents the testimony of a BA employee.

The British Airways dispute is often portrayed as a battle of wills between management and union bosses, glossing over the fact that people’s livelihoods and lives are at stake. On the day that union members meet for the first time this year, ahead of the next strike ballot which closes on 21 January, we hear from a longtime BA employee on the effect on their life; they have asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals

Cabin crew are a disparate workforce varying enormously in terms of age, race, class and nationality. We don’t know each other. We meet each other for the first time at the pre-flight briefing and after the trip, largely never see each other again. For many of us, attending a union meeting is the first political action we have ever taken. And British Airways cannot understand why 91% of the workforce is unionised, why at every ballot, between 81% and 92% vote to strike and how the union managed to realise that unprecedented degree of solidarity.

There is one simple answer:  A company gets the union it deserves.

So for a management fixated on its own cabin crew being the overpaid, under worked, indolent, thieving entity that stands between it and an even greater increase to their personal bonuses and share options, there is also one simple answer: destroy the union.

In pursuit of this quest, British Airways has engaged thoroughly in every principle of union busting, including the creation of a climate of fear among the workforce in an attempt to undermine confidence in the union’s power and its ability to protect and to chip away at the workers’ resolve.

BA created a secret intelligence unit with the specific remit of gathering evidence against striking cabin crew and have actively encouraged staff to inform. They conduct covert surveillance and having dispensed with normal policies and procedures, threaten, suspend and dismiss crew in unprecedented numbers with apparent impunity.

I was one of the suspended cabin crew but am now sacked. I am a single parent, have a good degree and have worked for them for more than ten years. I earned about £27,000 per year. I love my job and always have.

Some of the very best days of my life have been spent on trips with crew who though a bunch of strangers are among the warmest, most dynamic, creative and caring people I have ever known. I may not have always been there for the school play and have had to juggle madly like all working parents with the added difficulty of being away for days on end and doing it all through a haze of chronic jetlag. But my working for the airline has afforded me and my family some incredible experiences.

I have always enjoyed the actual work; the meeting the passengers and making a difference to them, however small. I care about them. I respect them. And it is because of this that I believe in my union’s aims and actions.

Being sacked from BA means not just the loss of my livelihood but also my entire way of life. I don’t know who I am if I am not BA cabin crew. And being sacked is one thing, but being sacked on trumped up charges heard by a kangaroo court as a pawn in a political game is quite another.

It’s actually not, not yet anyway, the how am I going to pay my mortgage that keeps me awake at night. It’s the lies and the injustice and the powerlessness. It’s the moral outrage that I play through my brain on a continuous loop all day and night as though if I run it once more the outcome might be different.

In taking on BA, we cabin crew take on the British anti-union labour laws and the courts, we take on union busters and one of the biggest legal firms in the world, Baker McKenzie. In continuing the fight we expose ourselves to the unbridled vitriol of a largely right-wing press. Our own management will undoubtedly continue removing benefits, making threats and stepping up their campaign of dismissing those who do not yield to their brave new world order.

Prior to this dispute, BA cabin crew may not have been political animals. We are now.

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96 Responses to “The BA cabin crew dispute: The view from the shop floor”

  1. Shane

    To put the “perks” argument to bed,

    Nick, Cabin Crew by nature are business travellers hired to travel for that company. Laws and legislation currently exist to ensure that these travellers as they work in a safety related industry they are entitled to specific amounts of rest between duties (you work in health services so I am sure you are aware of this however with many friends who are in the health services it still does amaze me at the hours many of you have to work). The airlines are required to obey these rules. The hotels are not a perk but a necessity. I am unaware of any airline that forces its crews to pay for their own accomodation down route and transport to and from the airport. I as longhaul BA crew have stayed in these so called luxury hotels alongside crew of other airlines such as Virgin, American, Qatar, Emirates, BMI and if Im to go down the loco route even Southwest, various charter airlines, canjet etc. Any business man or woman who travels for their company receive similar treatment with the costs being expensed to the company. The main difference to BA is that they more often then not get massive discount rates on those hotel rooms for the crew as they hotels are guaranteed year round occupancy for the duration of the contract and are happy to have the crews there because we may potential spend our own money on the hotels auxiliary services. So dont be fooled, BA and most airlines are paying very little for us to be accomodated.
    As for the staff travel, well if you can afford to use it so be it, I know my finances are tight.
    In this recession I have yet to hear of anyone of my friends being coerced into paycuts exceeding 15%. We are being replaced and the company are attempting to force us onto a new contract which for many of us could see us taking home up to 50% less then we currently do now. This is just not realistic nor at all fair.
    There are plenty of things we could have done to give the company the savings it required any many of them were considered but the management have simply refused to negotiate – fact!
    I genuinly fear for my future, I am constantly anxious when I hear yet another attempt by the compnay to undermine and undervalue us. Some say we achieved nothing from the strikes but at least we still have our contracts after 18 months and proved to the world that WW and his team have outright LIED to you all about BAs “Fight for survival” by the posting of a significant profit at the end of the year and the awarding of bonus payments to management. Just remember that, you were lied to. The very people that you are trying to defend deliberatly mislead you in an attempt to win nothing more then a PR campaign.
    Now, a simple way to describe to you what is happening to us currently which you may be able to relate to your own lives which I heard someone use to explain to another outside party recently……

    You are a business man in a team of say 6 employed by a company. You work 5 days a week with a handsome salary and a motivational commission package. You come in one day and learn that the company has hired 2 new people on a much reduced salary of say £2.40 an hour ( 😉 ). They do not earn commission however there is a recession taking place and they are just happy for the job.
    You are not initially concerned as you hear they will initially just work one or two days a week and will work alongside you. But then suddenly down the line you hear they have taken on one more person at this rate. They are not given Tuesday as their day of work and you are not required that day. Then another person is hired and they get Tuesday and Wednesdays and you are left at home on this days not earning your commission. Before you know it there are 6 people on this rate working pretty much every day of the week and you are barely required at all and left at home to earn your basic until eventually the to company advise you that your job description has now changed and you are no longer required. The only way you can retain a job is to switch to this new contract and earn significantly less. You consider leaving and going elsewhere but soon realise that yes, there is a recession taking place and everywhere else is doing the same. You make your decision whatever way you do.
    THEN…..A year or two down the line, the recession is over and you try to get a similar contract to what you had before….NOT A BLOODY CHANCE….No company will honour that and use the whole “well the industry has changed” rant. Everyones terms and conditions have now been permanently eroded and will never improve resulting in a dramatic drop in standard of life for anyone while the fat cats in management reap the benefits.
    Is this fair? I personally dont think so. This is EXACTLY what is happening to the Heathrow Cabin Crew at British Airways. If allowed to continue it will spread to the ground staff, then the pilots (oh yes it will), engineers, support staff….then other companys and before you know the whole nation will be in a grip of unreversible social change which only goes against first world idealology of social betterment!

    Just my 6pence worth!

  2. Shane

    Apologies for the series of grammatical errors!

  3. Nick Robertson

    RT @leftfootfwd: The BA cabin crew dispute: The view from the shop floor:

  4. Norma S

    For Ronnie and those who wish to know more about the cabin crew dispute and pov, just over two years ago, a document was leaked, which outlined the plans of British Airways to introduce a new lower paid group of flight attendants on lower pay and ess favourable terms and conditions. The stumbling block of course was the union, which would have to go if these plans were to come to fruition. The fear of the existing crew was that little by little their work would move to the new fleet on the lower terms and conditions. Seeing as crew rely on working to boost their relatively low basic pay this was a matter of great concern.
    Under the guise of a ‘fight for survival’ Mr Walsh insisted that the company could not continue paying the existing crew their same salaries, and survive. The union were reasonable and found the cost savings and the ways to deliver them. Immediately Walsh changed the goal posts and said that even more money had to be saved. Again the union came up with the goods and again this was rejected. This has never been about saving money but instead to bust the union to bring in the new lower paid employees that would in the next decade deliver enormous cost savings. Savings destined for the pockets of the shareholders and the directors.
    The fight for survival was less than subtle subtefuge as two years into this dispute the economic outlook is improving, the airline has introduced new routes and indeed the directors have been awarded £3 million, yes that’s right three million, in bonuses.
    And for those of you who believe that it is acceptable to employ people on little more than the legal minimum and to attempt to threaten your existing staff into accepting a lower wage (unless they are of course directors) I say this. When these people cannot exist on their paltry salaries and turn to the government for state benefits to support them (as British Airwys manaers at Gatwick have advised their employees to do)who do you think picks up the bill? Yes you the taxpayer, who will face increasing direct and indirect taxation to suppor a two tier society.

    A race to the bottom in salaries and terms and conditions is in nobodys interests.

  5. R

    Gosh this debate is being really hauled away from its origins.
    Are BA using union busters on its cabin crew union?

  6. Peter

    Cabin crew must understand how futile a further strike would be. There are now enough fully trained volunteers backed up by the supremely professional New Mixed Fleet crew to operate a full LH schedule and an almost full SH schedule … Just what is the point of another strike. BA has won this dispute long ago with crew compliments cut with no effect, mixed fleet crew on lower salaries introduced and expanding quickly and a huge group of volunteer crew from all areas of BA ready and waiting to back BA. The vast majority of BA staff will not allow the militant minority of crew to inflict futher damage on our company .. Our customers should not panic .. they will see no effect if a stike was to take place.

  7. Barney

    Errr hello Nick – I think you may have been mistaken about BA crew staying at the Taj Mahal hotel in Bombay in 1979 …. at that time they stayed in the less salubrious Oberoi Towers on Nariman Point. IF you are going to slag an honest group of workers off perhaps you would like to get your facts correct?
    By the way, the reason that BA (and most other major airlines) put their aircrew up in good standard hotels is the pure simple fact that with an average 24 hours off and being constantly under the influence of jet-lag, and often working long days (in the 1970’s the BA route to Bombay often involved a transit stop en route making it a 12 hour working day!) it is to the company’s advantage to have well-rested crews to take over their next flight. BA used it’s negotiating powers (often block-booking 36, sometimes 72 rooms per night) to do amazing deals with hotels who were glad to have that number of rooms booked on a regular basis 7 nights a week!
    Meal allowances? Oh yes, the amount of allowances paid reflects the local economy – so that’s about £30 a day in India then for three square meals in their ‘luxury’ location. Slightly more in places such as Hong Kong and Tokyo but only comparable with the cost of eating 3 meals a day in their hotel.

    BA cabin crew have signed a contract with BA to receive a certain level of renumeration and the company agreed a set of operating levels and procedures with the unions that the company now wants to rip up which is going to affect the working conditions, time off and rest periods at home of each one of the 12000 workforce. You expect them to have change imposed upon them without a fight? Get real!
    Walsh has turned a largely professional customer orientated loyal workforce into a group that is fighting for its very existence. The airline will become a low-paid high charging carrier with little experience in the cabin due to the high turnover of staff. IF you want to escape from an aircraft after an accident or you suffer a heart attack at 38,000 feet who would YOU rather have looking after your interests? Someone with 25+ years experience or an individual of tender years with 18 months experience who are about to leave the job because they simply can’t afford to stay in for a long term career?
    I know who I’d rather have looking after me…. Beware of the Walsh/Broughton legacy – long after they have gone BA will be suffering, or more than likely they will be taken over and the UK’s national carrier will be Virgin.

    For all of those who think that this dispute is about a militant group of workers hi-jacking their union you couldn’t be more wrong. There is another ballot for industrial action about to be published – my guess is there will be another 85% vote in favour of taking more industrial action on a turnout of about 80% … so that’s about 8160 militants then? Wow, that’s some achievement for BASSA! Get real people, look at what’s happening within BA and don’t think it couldn’t happen to you in your job – it can and it probably will if BA win this long dispute as there is simply NO protection for the workforce in employment law.

  8. Steven a foust

    The BA cabin crew dispute: The view from the shop floor: It is certain that the deal on the table is not going t…

  9. Justice Peace

    I read these comments with interest. It seems that many people on here are wrapped up in hating BA Cabin Crew for the percieved perks they have. Yes they stay in nice hotels, but by no means the most expensive, and what would you have them eat while they are there… pehaps a few bites of the street delights in Deli…and then see how effective they are at giving 110% customer service. Be reminded before you start attacking them for these things, that for the majority fighting to keep these ´perks´ they were given them in the employment contracts they signed. Yes they miss the school plays, holidays and birthdays and of course they did sign up for that, but when you engage that argument remember they also signed up for the hotel, rest hours, food allowence and all the other things that allows them to be the best cabin crew in the air! Yes ok, when looking at them in contrast to soldiers, the cabin crew of BA are fortunte, but a lot of us, if not all of us that remain in the UK away from battle zones can be considered lucky. And if you really want to have that argument, why not look at investment bankers, football player, reality t.v stars and all those professions which earn the real big bucks. You don´t think of those because all the while you are enjoying the benifits you don´t need to compare them to the soldiers at war. But i´m betting, No.1 on our armed forces mind in the overpayed list would be the men of the premier league.
    Now back to the real issues, leaving comparisons behind. Kangaroo courts; i´m sure the ignorant and there truly are some commenting on here, believe that truth and justice are at the heart of the panels deciding the fate of hundreds of BA Cabin crew. But that just is not true. Let me assure you, evidence is being manifactured and trumped up charges are certainly being brought. Look at the numbers of those being suspended and sacked, then look and see how many of them are loyal staff without so much as a bad mark to their names with many years worth of fantastic service in the air, AND surprise surprise the old contracts. Make no mistake these people are being phased out because they have the backbone to stand up and fight for the job that they SIGNED UP FOR.. They are not asking for more, they are not asking for a raise or more of these supposed perks … they only want what they signed up for. Mr James, you say they have been given the ¨opportunity¨ to go from full to part time.. Well that can only be considered an opportunity should the staff want to work part time. Many of them cannot afford to and when they decline this ¨opportunity¨ they too are faced with bogus charges much like the fate of some of their peers. You can´t tell me that isn´t bullying. As for the ¨insidious whispers by strikers against those who decided to work normally¨ i happen to know many cabin crew as personal friends, both those who decided to strike and those who didn´t. And between them there certainly has not been this feeling. Of course there is confusion and fear, but fear mostly comes from the power source and in this case guess who is fuelling the fire.
    Furthermore with regards to the secret intelligence unit. You are of course right Mr James, can´t be very secret if its known about. Well thats the thing.. they BA Bosses like to think they can play James Bond but really they are more wallace and gromit. Some of the intrusions include photographs from outside the homes of BA Cabin Crew from rental vehicles and well other not so conspicious acts of ridiculousness. This is a complete invasion of privacy. They definitely are not playing fair. You yourself Mr James make a very flippant statement about strikers getting fired. In what day and age does standing up in union action allow the Big boss to punish you with sacking you?
    As for the arguement that why has nobody gone to tribunal. I believe there are a few brave cabin crew members trying to go to tribunal. So watch that space.. The evidence is certainly mounting against the dictatorship that is BA managment, and the house of cards will fall. It is only my sincerest hope that when it does, the great staff of BA will not be too tired to rebuild what once was a great company.
    p.s i would also like to add that if Virgin took over BA it would be a crying shame. Although i have nothing against Sir Richard or his merry band of airhosts and hostesses they really do not have the experience, class or customer service that is regularly delivered by the long time leaders of the skies.

  10. Chris

    I am an occasional flyer. I would simply observe that when
    I make a booking I realise that weather and emergencies may disrupt
    my travel plans but in other respects I wish to minimize the
    risks of disruption to travel and lost luggage and I will do
    my best to avoid airports and airlines where the management and/ or
    workforce do not place this high on their agenda. This places BA [and LHR] way down on my list of preferences and I’ll only use them if the alternatives are restricted.

    As for general remarks on industrial relations, an agreement or contract should be binding until renegotiated and I see no reason why unions and managers should not agree to compulsory arbitration.
    If an employee has legal conditions of employment and does not like the conditions, they are free to look elsewhere. If a manager gets a ridiculous salary and bonus then that should be a matter for shareholders and for government legislation.

  11. Rob

    Has anyone flown with Qatar Air, Asiana or Korean Air? Sorry, but the standard of service in Business Class with these guys makes BA look like McDonalds. If BA crew are supposedly the highest paid in the industry, there is something wrong, and they need to improve before thinking about striking.

  12. Jonathon James

    Ahhh Barney… if only the numbers stacked up. The last published figures for union membership indicated that the BASSA branch had dropped by over 1000 to just 9000 members in August 2010. The Amicus based Cabin Crew 89 branch was around 1700 back in February, but this has also declined. A highly optimistic figure would be that 7000 would vote for strike action, but when it comes to the crunch only around 4,000 would walk out. BA would have 8000+ cabin crew who would be working normally, augmented by whatever volunteers they have trained.

    Now I can quite understand cabin crew striking if BA were putting them all on new, less beneficial, contracts. Trouble is BA are doing no such thing. Yes, the company is recruiting staff on lower starting salaries and different terms and conditions to the existing crew, but where is your evidence that they will force existing staff onto these contracts ? All that I have read suggests that BA have stated they are not looking to change existing staff terms and conditions.

  13. Barney

    Rob, the standard of service on the airlines you quoted may well be better than BA’s – but I suspect that the service is given with far more staff than BA currently provide on its aircraft. From my experience Singapore and other far eastern airlines used to crew their aircraft with up to 22 cabin crew – BA have only had at most 16 cabin crew on their 747’s and that is now down to 14 with one less cabin supervisor.
    There is another variable here – just what the company is prepared to offer by way of the ‘product’. BA have for some time now been cutting back what it provides for its customers. A choice of 3 main meals in Club? Don’t make me laugh – when there are 70 customers the number of meals loaded totals about 74….. on many occasions if you are at the back of the cabin you get a second option at best, if not a third or basically ‘what’s left’!
    In first class the amount of food loaded is once again minimal – the cheese portions wouldn’t even satisfy Jerry the mouse and they now ’round trip’ wine in first class so the 5 bottles of claret that once lasted one sector serving up to 14 passengers now has to do a round trip serving two flights or up to 28 passengers. Middle and far eastern airlines would never lower themselves to do that as they pride themselves on offering ‘service’ – something that BA’s management lost sight of many years ago. The old mantra that ‘you should never refuse a premium customer anything’ has long disappeared from BA’s training manuals!
    It is difficult to compare like with like…. especially when one company is run by a cost-cutting regime (except that doesn’t reach as far as their perks and bonuses of course…).

    Jonathon, from your desk in Waterworld I have no doubt your figures may well be more up to date than mine (but probably includes the non-union ‘volunteers’ that so enjoy playing at cabin crew but will only realise how used they’ve been when they lose their day jobs as they are not ‘missed’ at their desks….) but the percentages still hold and we’ll both have to wait and see what figures the present ballot produces – my information is that the more rubbish Walsh throws at the cabin crew community the stronger it grows and many of those who worked through the previous strikes are now re-joining the union and want to take action this time around.

    BA will not force crew on the old contract to sign the new contract but they will constructively try to force this issue – crew on the new cheap fleet who do not get paid overtime, meal allowances or extra long range payments (they get a flat rate £2.60 or something per hour they are away flying) will obviously be chosen to fly on the long range routes as they will do so for several hundred pounds less than crew on the old contract. Therefore those who remain on the old contract will be losing several thousand pounds a year from their salaries (which incidentally BA quote in full, including flying allowances, for anyone requesting a salary quote for a mortgage – so BA DOES consider allowances to be a part of the salary ‘package’…).
    What we will no doubt see is that people who rightly insist upon remaining on their present contract being used on less lucrative flights whilst the premium routes (from a customer service perspective) are operated by the cheaper less experienced crews – it is the operation of a madhouse.
    My guess is that the last few remaining on the old contract (who incidentally are barred from future promotions as these will only be given to people on the ‘new’ contract…) will be sitting at home on their basic salary being given only a few days work a month. Now, if THAT makes economic sense then the world truly has gone mad…

    Many contributors to this forum clearly do not know or understand the reality of what is going on within BA. I would urge them to seek a greater understanding of the perspective from both sides before spouting some of the more venomous words that I have read here recently.

    One final comment – clearly this issue is NOT about a major cost saving exercise to save the company from financial ruin (caused in part by the management team paying up to £1bn in fines and compensation for the illegal cargo and fuel surcharge cartels that they were involved in, the debacle caused by the opening of Terminal 5, constant equipment and systems failures etc etc). First the cabin crew community were told by Walsh to save £40m pa, that figure rose to £60m, then £80m topping out at £140m!! BASSA offered temporary cost savings of £120m through agreement changes but BA turned the offer down – IF it was all about saving the company from financial ruin Walsh would have grabbed this offer. No, it’s ALL about removing the trade unions from the scene within BA. BASSA is NOT a militant union, they have been involved in discussions with the company for many years resolving amicably many of the problems between the two groups. THIS dispute is ALL about doing away with the trade unions. BA’s cabin crew are basically a non-militant group of caring workers – what you are seeing is people who have their backs to the wall fighting back against a dictatorial regime who hasn’t the guts to come out and say what its policy is. This dispute is going to continue until the bitter end – one thing is certain, BA will be the loser as ALL goodwill between management and staff has flown out of the window and BA has relied upon that goodwill in the past to keep the operation going when the management have yet again screwed things up (by not employing enough cabin crew to work the peak summer months, not ordering enough equipment or services to feed its customers etc etc etc). Things within BA will never be the same again…..

  14. W.W

    I am crew of 20 years plus…and still have 20 plus years till I retire..that’s dedication to a company, wouldn’t you say?. But somehow I don’t think there will be a gold watch coming my way, or any other crew member for that mater. I was suspended in summer in one of B.A’S undercover strike busting campaigns and may I say I was ‘OFF DUTY’ AND OFF B.A property. As for kangaroo courts they certainly do exist as I have experienced them too. I will be striking to protect my future and the future of B.A…….PERHAPS THE DAILY MAIL READERS SHOULD FLY ANOTHER AIRLINE as they clearly are so easily won over by the very ‘controlling powers that be’ that are trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Maybee a little credit were credits due…KTF

  15. Peter

    Barney.. Your words BA will certianly be the loser. Since this dispute started BA have cut the crew compliments. They have all new staff recruited on much lower rates of pay. They have a huge group of fully trained crew volunteers. … and BASSA have achieved ???

  16. DC

    BA treat their employees and their passengers appallingly.
    It seems they have lots of money to throw at a dispute, yet cannot even manage to get aircraft of the ground in snow and cold weather.
    Is that because most of their staff are flying around pretending to be cabin crew? Is that why other airlines were shown taking off whilst BA grounded their flights? Is that why there was not enough staff in the terminals or was that because they were expected to work for free outside their normal hours, with BA refusing to pay anything extra to the ground staff for them to stay behind after hours to assist their customers?
    Having suffered BA at their worst, all I can say is NEVER AGAIN.

  17. Bullied of Heathrow

    I was going to post something on here but its soooooo obvious that the story has been hijacked by managers at Waterside. SHAME ON YOU ALL.

  18. Katy G.

    Peter, BA have achieved this through bullying, intimidation and imposition which doesn’t require any skill or intelligence.

  19. Barney

    DC – you have hit the nail straight on the head…..! At least there is no pretence to treat their customers any differently to their staff…

    There is anecdotal evidence that the head of BA’s de-icing operation at T5, LHR, was actually away from his post when the snow hit before Christmas ….. because he was playing at being a volunteer strike-breaking cabin crew!!
    You have to understand that these ‘volunteers’ (others have a less charitable view of them…), having done their initial training, have to fly every month in order to keep their licence in operation so even though there is no dispute at the moment full time cabin crew are being kept at home whilst these ‘pretend’ cabin crew fly in their place to stay ready for the next dispute ….. another example of BA short-changing their customers on the aircraft by having under-trained amateurs doing a job they are not fully qualified to do whilst the well trained crew remain at home unused. How does that feel Mr full-fare paying customer???
    Many of these ‘volunteers’ having done one or two flights have now decided to withdraw from the volunteer list as they don’t like the long hours and hard work! They have been pointedly told by their managers that they cannot withdraw from the volunteer list and they have been offered financial incentives to remain on the list under the threat of losing their own jobs if they refuse to go on flights.
    At least these people are seeing the true face of BA management – knowing that their own jobs have become vulnerable as they face being made redundant if they are not ‘missed’ at their day job …. what a wonderful employer they are so kindly helping out.

    Yet again DC Terminal 5 was bereft of staff as BA has put all the ground staff onto a new contract that has less flexibility than the old contract which means that when bad weather hits there are no spare people to call in. BA put out a request on their intranet for volunteers from other areas to go and work in T5 – well, you saw the response to that yourself…. nothing, hardly anyone volunteered and that’s another result you get for screwing a once loyal section of your workforce and many others.
    Volunteer to help the same regime that is intent upon screwing its workforce? How out of touch can Walsh and Broughton get?

    BA is going down the plughole very quickly under these two fools.

  20. a different Peter

    I fly business class long haul a lot and use many airlines. The firm I work for and I are both tight which means being a rate tart looking for the cheapest fares. This means i fly the legacy carriers relatively infrequently as their fares are high. BA do have T5, which is great, and a good ground operation in most countries, but once in the air they are very ordinary with old tired planes and jaded, snotty, superior and unhelpful cabin crew. For me the plusses on the ground are balanced by negatives in the air so i would not pay a penny more for BA business class than i would for business with any other reputable airline.
    This dispute is really sad. To an outsider it looks like weak management for years allowed the union to bully it into overpaying until the airline was on its knees and any profit there was went straight to the staff. Strong management was employed with the brief to stop overpaying and make profits for the owners, the shareholders. The union does not like this, despite all other BA staff accepting it, and is desperate to hang onto the pay and conditions they won when management was weak. To do this they are crying foul at every conceivable opportunity and desperately trying to delay the day when their members pay returns to more normal levels.
    Nothing wrong with any of that and don’t think any of the above is remotely contentious, suspect some on this forum will not agree….
    Personally i think management are going to win, they are playing pretty fair, are doing everything to a plan and have built excellent strike breaking plans so their customers notice each strike less than the one before. To say BA’s customers are unsympathetic to the cabin crew is a considerable understatement.
    A brighter union would have accepted that they had an amazing deal and would have worked to stretch things out for the privileged old guard for as long as they could. A brighter union would realise that companies can, in time, push through changes, after proper consultation even if the union has buried its head in the sand. Quite why the Union rejected the last offer, which was a real face saver from a desperate situation, defies belief.

  21. W.W

    I honestly beleive that all the talk and ill feeling bred through Mr Walsh BLURRED VISION is a big red herring, from the use of the financial downturn in his spin on cost saving for ‘his’ comapany’s salvation to the FUEL FIXING fiasco (mps have gone to prison for similar but the cheif exec never bites the bullet! just his pupetiers)…What were seeing is far worse! this is a total remodelling of a business in this case an airline. I liken it to boarding school or any other institution you may wish to imagine. The institution beleives they are the law and the workforce are subservient and able to be manipulated. In this case through Walsh’s management by fear, intimidation and bullying. Unfortunately some of the customer base he has won over are of a similar mindset and detrimental to the airline equally. In a nut shell he was brought in to do a job to help the airline and streamline yes, but while he has grown in his role and not in his stature he has become the bully that all small people at boarding school seem to become>>> VOTE YES CABIN CREW>>

  22. W.W

    It will also be very interesting to see what Mr Underpants will do at the next strike when his job at Iberia is on the line>>> I think he may well curve ball it to the next saviour of THE WORLDS FAVOURITE AIRLINE>>>>

  23. Barney

    Different Peter (glad you’re not the one working at BA’s HQ at Waterworld – at least you appear to live in the real world!)…. ALL of the Agreements that BA’s cabin crew have worked to have been freely negotiated between the company and the trade unions. There has been no coercion by either side, history shows that both sides at various times in the past have been flexible in order to reach an agreement which has been signed by both parties and logged at the National Joint Council for Civil Aviation.

    The problem is that Willie-boy has come along from screwing Aer Lingus to the wall and has decided that he is unilaterally ripping up these agreements – without having the bottle to actually come out and say so. What would YOU do if your employer did that to you? BA’s cabin crew are a disparate force who don’t have regular day to day contact with their manager therefore they delegate their negotiations in dealing with the company to their trade union who act on their behalf under instructions given to them by the membership at union meetings and by secret postal ballots. The only time a gun has been held to any head within BA is now – with Walsh unilaterally ripping up previously jointly made agreements.
    By the way, NONE of BA’s other staff have been picked on and had such vast changes imposed upon them – though no doubt they will be next in line should Walsh win his battle with BASSA …. food for thought there all those of you working in Waterworld!
    Peter, if you think it’s such an amazing deal to have a 15-20% salary reduction imposed upon you (as well as giving the company the flexibility to move you to any job within the company at their whim or transfer you to any subsidiary company anywhere in the world – read the small print!) then I hope that your boss does the same to you in the near future – perhaps then you will realise just what this long ongoing dispute is really about.

    The devil really is in the detail, problem is the detail is almost unintelligible to anyone outside of the company, which is probably what Walsh relies upon. 10,000 basically non-militant people are not taking this long term action for fun you know…..

  24. Jonathon James

    When will some people realise that there are lot of us who do not work for BA, who look at this dispute utter amazement. The pro-union rhetoric here seems to be of the view that BA was not in any real difficulty financially and that it has used an economic downturn to attempt to break the largest union in the UK.

    Take a step back and look at that statement very carefully. There has been an economic downturn. Airlines are dependant on businesses and leisure travellers having money to pay for seats. If these businesses and leisure travellers have less money, they won’t be flying as much. So the airlines won’t make as much money. If the airlines cannot reduce their costs they will start to make losses. Airlines need to be able to borrow money in order to buy new aircraft etc. Banks will not lend money unless they are pretty certain of getting it back and will be wary of lending to companies who are making losses.

    Now. Given that BA posted significant losses in 2009, don’t the union minded folk on here think that maybe the company was in just a slight financial bind ?

    Next. Unite has around 1.5 million members. I suspect that it has a very healthy balance sheet – it has been able to fund the Labour Party to the tune of several million pounds. Thus it would take an awful lot of financial muscle to be able to break it. Do BA have that financial muscle ? Moreover, BA has, according to the latest company report, some 40,000 employees. It operates collective bargaining with a number of unions – Unite, GMB, BALPA etc. If the company were intent on union busting, why would it take on the union that represents the largest proportion of its workforce ? Surely it would be easier to tackle one of the smaller groups first. Whilst the union folk digest that, let me ask why, given that the company operates a number of collective bargaining agreements, would it want to remove the very groups it deals with. If BA staff were all non-unionised, the company would have to deal with every one of its 40,000 employees on an individual basis. That would be a huge overhead.

    From a purely logical standpoint, the union busting allegation seems to be a complete myth. It might be different if the pro-union folk could put some unequivocal facts on the table. To date I have not seen any.

    To say that cabin crew have been singled out is a gross misrepresentation. My understanding is that several years ago, the whole of the BA catering operation was sold off and now trades as Gate Gourmet. The company also made significant changes in working practices for ground crew when it moved in to T5.

    That does not mean that BA management is entirely blameless. Clearly, the fact that cabin crew seem to feel that they should be exempt from any cost reductions is down to weak management in the past. The key problem seems to be that now BA management have taken a much tougher stance and the cabin crew unions have been taken by surprise. They were so used to getting their own way that they don’t know how to deal with a management that now wishes to manage the company. The biggest mistake the union made was in calling for strike action and then failing to get the rank and file support. The strike weapon is single use. If it fails to stop the company first time around, then repeated use is calculated to fail as well. If Unite are to reach a settlement in this dispute, they will need to find a different tactic. Maybe now is the time for them to put forward some fresh proposals rather than rely on BA coming up with offers.

  25. Cv


  26. Jonathon James

    When you join a company, you sign a contract of employment that lays down the terms and conditions. Outside of that contract there may be general agreements on working practices etc, that have been agreed between management and labour, but they are not contractually binding. So if a company wishes to vary these agreements, it is perfectly at liberty to do so. Of course, it runs the risk that labour may not agree to the changes, however, it should be noted that this does not constitute a variation to the terms and conditions of employment.

    From where I stand it is obvious that the nub of this dispute centred originally around making the on board supervisors get out of their dens and work alongside their teams. This was the direct effect of the reduction in manning levels. It only affected Heathrow based cabin crew as the Gatwick based crews were working along these lines already. Now it is surely coincidental that the bulk of the BASSA branch executive are supervisors. There was absolutely no change for the rest of the cabin crew.

    At the same time, BA seem to have been keen to reduce their cabin crew costs, which, according to CAA stats, are the highest in the UK. They look like achieving this by recruiting new cabin crew on a lower starting salary and with different allowances. It is this action which seems to be worrying some cabin crew. The problem for cabin crew is that they have always had a low basic pay, but have topped up their salary with allowances and additional payments. This is not unusual in the airline industry. The company says it will give the cabin crew an allowance of £x for an evening meal away from base. The cabin crew endeavour to spend less than this and pocket the difference. On some routes the difference is substantial. As more new staff join cabin crew on the lower salary level, they will be deployed on routes that were hitherto crewed by older contract staff. Net effect is that the older staff see the degree of ‘bunce’ from the difference between allowance and actuals reduce. Moreover, they also lose the discretionary payments, hence the statements about loss of earnings.

    What we are seeing is a group of workers suddenly become aware of the very precarious nature of the basis of their earnings. It is no different to the shift worker who bases his/her lifestyle on always being able to pick up premiums for working night shifts and overtime. Fine whilst these are available, but when the company is forced to reduce production it can have dire effects on them.

    One would have expected a forward looking union to have identified this as a potential pitfall and to have worked to secure a greater proportion of members income as consolidated pay, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case. Just as a company gets the union relations it deserves, so do the members get the union they deserve. I suggest that it is high time that the membership took their leaders to task.

  27. Rum

    Mr Jonathon James,
    point 1,cabin crew do not agree to these imposed changes.
    2. The direct effect of reducing manpower is to increase workload-for all the crew.
    3. Discretionary payments- Also known as overtime.
    4.The company is reducing pay not production.
    5.We did consolidate some of our pay. Thank goodness.
    Crew are being victimised.
    Punished for being anywhere near Terminal 5 or Airport Hotels during strike days.

  28. Barney

    Jonathon (Waterworld) James – ok, if you want to play with CAA statistics….

    Another BIG part of BA’s problem is that they have the highest number of non-productive back-office staff of any UK airline. That figure has NOT been marginally reduced since the 400 managers left on severance a couple of years ago (with a few coming back as highly paid ‘consultants’ I may add…!).

    BA has been over-staffed for years – ever since the 1974 merger between BEA and BOAC, only once has any attempt been made to rationalise the staffing issue – when a consultant, Michael Levin, was employed from the States (travelling over on a Monday on Concorde, returning home the same way for the weekend…) to trawl through the HQ building getting rid of surplus people. Successive BA management teams have been weak in addressing that problem ever since 1974, what the airline (or any hotel or restaurant for that matter) doesn’t need is to reduce skilled front-line staff or reduce the content of ‘the product’ which BA have been doing in the last few years. It’s a simple trade-off …. for example, on BA’s 747 aircraft there have never been more than 16 cabin crew. Far eastern and middle eastern airlines have operated the same aircraft with up to 24 cabin crew, the equation is simple, the more crew you have onboard the more that can be done for your customers – cut back the crew and less will be done.

    Mr James, you have one thing correct, BA’s cabin crew have always had a low basic salary (compared to similar European airlines such as Lufthansa and Air France) topped up with a variety of allowances. For mortgage quotation purposes BA have always added ALL the figures together, so they concur that the cabin crew salary package is made up of basic salary PLUS an average amount of the variable allowances. So, by removing 20% of the allowances from their cabin crew (that’s the net effect of the ‘new fleet’ crew operating the long range routes instead of the existing full time crew) BA’s senior cabin crew (ie those employed before late 2010) on the old contract will be losing 20% of the salary package that BA are happy to quote as their total salary….. Are you hearing the bells ringing yet?
    How many of the people on this forum would be happy for that to happen to them, especially when your trade union offered the company temporary agreement changes resulting in cost savings of £120m per year whilst the company remained in ‘financial trouble’? Is that the workings of a ‘militant’ looking-for-trouble trade union, or one that is aware of the potential problem, which they want to try to solve, but guess that the figures may have been enhanced by a management team who have regularly increased their own salary/benefit packages despite losing hundreds of millions of pounds through illegal activities and gross incompetance?

    Come on Jonathon, look around you as you drink your lattes or shop at Waitrose in Waterworld (yes folks, the hard working ‘suits’ of BA’s HQ building have their very own in-house branch of Waitrose to shop at …. during company time no doubt!). Smell the coffee yet Jonathon?
    When Willie-boy has finished with the cabin crew (some hope from what I hear on the grapevine!) do you think he’ll sit back or will he want more from other groups of staff? More than likely and all those ‘volunteers’ who have been happily playing at being cabin crew may suddenly find that they have not been missed from their day jobs and they may well be ‘invited’ to vacate the premises in the near future when they find that they haven’t been missed whilst they’ve been away from their desks….

    One final comment – BASSA members are happy with their leadership (3 of whom have been sacked by the way – on very spurious charges indeed – watch this space when the cases hit the employment tribunals!) and their leaders represent the views of the members….. over 1000 of whom attended the Branch meeting last Monday, witnessed by the General Secretary of Unite who was in attendance and gave his Union’s full support to BASSA, its committee and its members.

  29. Paula

    Anyone who compares us to sailors or the army are missing the point, yes cabin crew signed up for unusual working hours etc, which isnt the issue, the issue is Ba cabin crew only want what they signed up for, nothing more and with compromise a bit less!! The comments regarding free holidays are totally ridiculous staff travel is standby air travel and they are complaining that it was taken away and not returned in full for taking part in a LEGAL strike.

  30. Mr. Sensible

    What British Airways and the right fail to understand is that this kind of anti-union rhetoric brings us no closer to what we all want; a sollution to the disagreement and no disruption for passengers.

    The best outcome for all sides is for union and management to reach a nigociated settlement.

  31. Dan Davis

    For the millionth time – BA have less crew at Gatwick because there is NO FIRST CLASS cabin on Gatwick flights. First Class is labour intensive and requres 3 crew. That same cabin area with Club seats (as at LGW and a handfull LHR flights) requires 2 crew ONLY.
    Got it now?
    Will those Watersiders who don’t know these basics kindly stop ranting about LGW having less crew. You just are showing that you do not know AT ALL what you are talking about!

  32. Jonathon James

    Rum & Barney

    point 1,cabin crew do not agree to these imposed changes. – but Cabin Crew aren’t running the business, that’s what you have managers for.
    2. The direct effect of reducing manpower is to increase workload-for all the crew. Very true, but your point is ?? I’m sure that a lot of other parts of BA have seen a reduction in manpower and a consequent increase in workload. Why should cabin crew be exempt ?

    3. Discretionary payments- Also known as overtime. – Again, your point is what ?

    4.The company is reducing pay not production. Um… not for existing staff. As far as I have read, BA management have offerd a pay RISE of 6% over two years.

    5.We did consolidate some of our pay. Thank goodness. – Good.

    Crew are being victimised.Punished for being anywhere near Terminal 5 or Airport Hotels during strike days. – Um are you saying that strikers who are on CAA property (something they are not entitled to do) are being taken to task ? A friend of mine was at the Arora hotel during the strike and was horrified at the busload of strikers who were hurling abuse at any BA staff in uniform as the drove down the A4. He said it was pure bullying.

    As far as the contention that BA has the highest non-flying to flying staff ratio, did the figures for other airlines include a headcount for all the services they buy in, services that BA deliver inhouse ? Like engineering, ground handling, sales,IT etc. ?? Suspect they didn’t. You have to be very careful with statistics.

    From memory when you apply for a mortgage you provide the lender with details of your last three months payslips. The lender will write to the company to check that you are still employed by them, but it is down to the individual seeking the mortgage to be certain that they will be able to make any repayments.

    As far as the assertion that the 1000 members who attended a rally are representative of the the total membership. I’m afraid that is pure tosh. To start with, they are a self selecting group. Only those who fully back the union position will attend. Dissenters will steer clear. Moreover, attendees would be those who were on a day off or had just finished work. Cabin crew who lived any distance from the venue would be less inclined to make the journey unless they were ardent supporters. Hardly surprising then that the attendees were very supportivbe of the union position, but to extrapolate from that and say they represent the views of the total membership is pure fantasy.

    Finally, BA’s headquarters must be a very nice working environment. It’s a pity I don’t work there. It’s a bigger pity that I don’t work for BA – there was a clue in my posting to that effect which you chose to ignore.

    There are a lot of people who do not work for BA who have commented on this. Just because we may hold a different view to you does not automatically mean we are BA management. The fact that you immediately spring to that assumption rather shows how little you understand about the way that businesses operate. I’m sure BA management are not blameless, but you do your cause no favours by leaping to conclusions based on little real evidence.

  33. John

    They came for the baggage handlers and I said nothing for I was a pilot, Then they came for the check in staff and I said nothing for I was a pilot, Then they came for the cabin crew and I said nothing for I was a pilot, Then they came for the pilots!!!

  34. Bullied of Heathrow

    As far as I see it, you have 2 sides, one side are in the business of making profit for themselves and those who choose to invest in the company. On the other side you have people trying to keep a roof over their heads, feed children and keep wolves from the door. Spin all the figures you like, call this one and that one, he said, she said.

    Johnathon James, you seem quite keen to have the Cabin Crew’s salaries pushed down and down and down with no concern for them, quite trite in the knowledge that they will have to work more and more for less and less. This says a lot about you. May the Lord have mercy on your soul.

  35. olly590

    RT @leftfootfwd: The BA cabin crew dispute: The view from the shop floor

  36. Jonathon James

    Bullied of Heathrow,

    If the pay is poor, surely the answer is to seek employment that pays better ? The problem that BA cabin crew face is that they are the best paid in the UK. Not only that, they tend to exceed the rate of pay when compared to other roles in the hospitality industry. A receptionist for a 4* hotel in central London picks up about £18k max. Management roles pay up tp £30k.

    It’s not a case of wanting to see BA cabin crew salaries get reduced, it is more about recognising that their pay is way out of kilter with competitors and the overall industry in general. Now that is fine for those who are currently employed on these highly preferential deals, but companies like BA cannot afford to keep on paying way over the top. Would you expect them to pay 30% more than other airlines for say, finance staff, telesales or HR people ? Somewhere along the line there has to be a dose of realism.

  37. Jonathon James


    you forgot
    the finance staff
    the sales force
    the planners
    the HR teams
    the IT bods
    the cleaners

    Personally, I think that it is somewhat disrespectful to attempt to put the condition of any groups of well paid workers in the same light as those who were rounded up and murdered in Europe under the Nazi regime. In the same way I would never dream of wearing a yellow star of David with the word BASSA on it as I think that is even more disrespectful to the millions of Jewish people who were wiped out in the Holocaust. Clearly, one BASSA member thought otherwise.

  38. Mike Cowtan

    Cabin crew did not know when they were well off. Far higher pay and perks than other airlines, some even have to pay for their own uniform. Try working for Ryan air or Easyjet. Now your perks have been taken away you are crying and hitting the public, without who you would not have a job. You all deserve to be sacked if you strike again, then try and get another job like a lot of people who would love your job, pay and perks before you chose to lose them.

  39. Ronald Wilton

    I used to fly BA .I will not ever use BA again. You just do not know when the staff will strike. I believe only a small minority wish to strike. The staff are snotty and have a dont care attitude. I now only fly with Virgin Atlantic where I have just come back from Florida. An amazing helpful, happy staff, who could not be more helpful and they get far less salary than BA stewards. I feel that I would sack them all and get new stewards. Hundreds would come forward to take their place for less salary. I bet they would not take too long to train.I use other airlines for short haul- you know they are going to fly.
    I feel sorry with BA they have to put up with what seems to be an anti british union.

  40. Frances

    I found this website by accident, but would like to comment in any case. My husband is one of BA’s Gold Executive Club members. He has been a Gold card holder for many years. Like many full fare paying passengers in the premium cabins, he has taken pay cuts for three consecutive years. His travel itinerary and work load continue to increase and he often clocks up 60 hour weeks. He continues to fly BA for one reason only – to show support for the company, and for those cabin crew who work during Unite’s strikes. However his patience if finite and I suspect he will soon be yet another valuable passenger who abandons BA permanently. His response to the constant whining complaints of striking cabin crew – “Let them get out into the real world and see what conditions are like.” On a personal level, I worked for Air France for 15 years, and the rhetoric of Unite’s union reps is remarkably familiar! Plus ca change…….

  41. Matthew

    What all the crew on strike do not seem to grasp is the fact that passengers like myself would much rather sit on the BA flight than another airline doe to my patriatism, but I have now switched ti Emirates as they are comparable in service standards, much cheaper on price and never go on strike.
    If you lot carry on demanding pay and conditions like you have got now then the airline will eventually go bust and you will all lose your jobs.
    What is more important to you,a job that is still the best paid in the airline industry or no job at all????????

    WAKE UP everyone that joins the strikes, you have it very good as it is!!!!!!!!

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