Why the Easyjet pay dispute matters

The Easyjet dispute highlights important lessons for building better businesses and a fairer society


Easyjet cabin crew are to vote over the coming month on potential strike action this August.

Their dispute over the company’s offer of a small pay increase highlights some important lessons for building better businesses and a better society.

Firstly, that Unions have a vital role to play in addressing low pay and the gaping income gap between those at the top and everybody else.

These are problems that everybody wants to solve.

However the left might caricature the Tories, they’re not sitting in castles chuckling about inequality. Prior to the election David Cameron exhorted businesses to give their staff a payrise. Boris Johnson said this week that the top rate of tax should not come down without a significant increase in the minimum wage. He’s previously stated that we need to shake ‘the cornflake packet’ to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to get to the top, and has fulminated against the ‘extraordinary’ growth in income differences within British companies.

The problem is that merely talking about these issues – usually alongside implausibly optimistic platitudes about the role of education making things better in the future – will not improve the current pay and conditions of ordinary workers or achieve a fairer balance of incomes between those at the top and everybody else.

What is really needed – and even the International Monetary Fund and Hedge Fund billionaires recognise/fear this – is an empowered workforce, with trade union representation giving them the capability to secure a better deal for themselves, rather than hoping for a hand-out from their employers inspired by politicians speeches.

Easyjet workers are showing how workers can fight for a better deal; but it happens too rarely in Britain, where we have amongst the lowest level of collective bargaining coverage and worker participation in company decision-making in Europe.

The second lesson from the Easyjet dispute relates to excessive executive pay, and how it does companies no favours whatsoever. Research for the High Pay Centre found that industrial conflicts are more common in workplaces with bigger pay gaps. Easyjet CEO Carolyn McCall was paid £7.7 million last year, more than 150 times the average Easyjet employee. According to Unite the Union, many cabin crew staff get little over £10,000 as their basic salary and are reliant on bonuses and commission to top up their total pay package.

Mccall’s pay was cited by the Easyjet Union when rejecting the company’s pay offer, just as ITV staff brought up CEO Adam Crozier’s £8 million pay package when balloting for industrial action last year. It’s no wonder that this kind of different treatment for people who are working for the same company and contributing to its success proves irksome, increasing the likelihood of industrial conflict.

Easyjet has, of course, been successful, with pre-tax profits of over £500 million last year. But it’s legitimate to question the value of such successes to the wider economy, when a tiny number of people grab a disproportionate share of the rewards.

Luke Hildyard is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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42 Responses to “Why the Easyjet pay dispute matters”

  1. stevep

    Of course we need empowered Trades Unions.
    Society doesn’t just consist of the wealthy few at the top of the heap, there are millions who`s only hope of a decent standard of living is collective bargaining.
    With the neutering of Unions in the UK, collective bargaining has become ineffective and society has become imbalanced.
    Unions give a voice to millions of working people, they give them a chance to democratically influence their working lives.
    Good employers welcome and encourage unions, they understand that a dialogue between employer and employee is necessary and beneficial to the health of the company.
    So let`s have a bonfire of unfair union laws and restrictions and return to more democratic and balanced industrial relations.

  2. Jacko

    Do you remember the glory days of the trades unions in the 1970s? You couldn’t turn the lights on or boil a kettle because the miners were on strike. You couldn’t turn the TV on because the TV technicians were on strike. You couldn’t bury the dead because the undertakers were on strike. The army had to man green-goddess fire engines because the fire brigade was on strike. No trains -drivers were on strike. Rubbish piled up in the street -refuse collectors on strike. On and on and on. Democratic and balanced industrial relations -trade union style.

  3. engine85

    Awesome, another strike from the lefties, IF they strike, then i will never fly easyjet again, they can join the queue for the ‘dole’ as they’ll have no customers left. Striking during peak times only hurts customers not the company, a strike hurts the company at any times. so this is nothing more than a stab in the back for the customer.

  4. Cole

    Blimey, you do exaggerate. We’re you actually around then?

  5. employee

    Striking during peak times does hurt the company, or else unions wouldn’t do it. It reduces forward bookings and the passengers must be compensated as well as refunded for cancelled flights.

    I don’t support industrial action in cases when companies have to make cutbacks to survive, however easyJet made £500m profit last year. It’s not as if they’re on the brink of going under, so they can easily afford a decent pay rise for the cabin crew. They just don’t want to be seen as generous in the eyes of “the City”, as share price is everything these days!

  6. timworstall

    McCall…didn’t she used to run the Guardian?

  7. Charlie Morrison

    Absolute bollocks you will.fly with easyjet again because they’re the biggest please go to BA instead then….oh wait didn’t they strike? No no don’t be throwing empty threats out because you re against trade unions is it because your a small business owner because I’m sure easyjet won’t miss you

  8. Selohesra

    How long will it take Easyjet to train up some attractive Eastern European immigrants as trollies dollies – then tada – problem solved – employ people who want to work

  9. Selohesra

    I can remember no tv because of the powercuts – made me miss out on Magic Roundabout & Hectors House – bastards!

  10. Cole

    Of course there were problems, but the whole thing has been wildly exaggerated by the Tory press so they can claim Thatcher ‘saved’ the nation.

  11. engine85

    You’re not too bright are you Charlie, did mommy drop you on your head as a child ? ? Thankfully, people like you will never be anything more than a pawns in life, queuing up down the job center each week because nobody will employ you or put up with your militant attitude, you’re the reason we employ eastern europeans, and thats exactly what will replece your sacked staff, because they are willing to work for their money, not simply beg for it or want it for nothing.

  12. blarg1987

    How long would it take to replace a CEO, with an individual who would do the job for a third of the pay and double the hours managing a similar if not bigger industry in, eastern Europe, Asia or south america? Answer not long.

    Funny how the top end of society ring fences itself while expects it from others, utter hipocracy.

  13. blarg1987

    By that logic, would you allow greater consumer choice and allow people to know which company you own (assuming you do) so those who disagree can voice it by not buying your products?

    Striking is sometimes the only way some companies will listen to staff. It is worth noting that easy jet cabin crew in the UK are on worse conditions then their European counterparts.
    If the company has been treating their staff unreasonably claiming poverty etc, and ignoring requests to negotiate then they can’t be surprised if people strike because management have not been more then reasonable form the get go.

  14. blarg1987

    Well Germany has TU reps on the board and look at their industry!

    There is a lack of trust which does not help when the man on the street is being told he can;t have a pay rise because the company is struggling, however the company tells shareholders it has record breaking profits and is paying larger dividends.

  15. stevep

    In the 1970`s you could turn on the kettle, watch TV, fight fires and bury the dead 99.99999% of the decade. It`s a little bit disingenuous saying you couldn’t and then blaming it all on the unions.
    The 1970`s were a decade of rampant energy price hikes as a result of wars and oil cartels in the middle east. Inflation spiralled out of control as a result. Thank goodness for the unions fighting to keep pace with it on behalf of their members.
    We didn`t all swallow misleading Tory election propaganda wholesale back then, A lot of people remember it well and know the truth.

  16. engine85

    The average Easyjet salary is 16k plus bonuses, they net £1200 – 1600 a month, and they typically work 2 days and get 1 day off, which means they average over 20k a year, thats pretty good, for what is usually an individual with very few or often no qualifications and just 4 weeks training. I count many easyjet pilots on my friend list, as well as several of their QA staff. Many, many companies have folded over the years due to unqualified, unskilled, untrained idiots going on stike because the union told them they should be earning 25-30k+ PA (todays market) this is simply unrealistic for unskilled, unqualified staff. Just like the idiot tube drivers in the table below . .

    The jobs the last labour government created are now bankrupting the country, as they are generally unskilled people working in ‘created’ posts for local government on salaries they don’t deserve. Labour took this country, for the first time in its history, to 70% of the population working for the government, but its a scam, it looks great on paper, it ‘appears’ to create jobs, but these people are paid from tax, therefore the tax they pay is simply tax going around in circles, they create no wealth, they are actually a drain on the state, it would be cheaper to pay them welfare, only the private sector generates wealth, thats a fact, and the unions can never get it into their thick heads, they simply want the rich to line the pockets of the legions of bone idle, lazy shits that will NEVER work for a living and simply want state handouts and free housing forever. And thats the state that Labour created, a welfare state.

    It cannot be sustained, it is simply a mathematical impossibility. It has been proved, time and time again, by finanacial analysts the world over, that the wealthy create wealth, the more money you leave in the pockets of the wealthy, the richer the working classes become, but Labour and the trade unions simply cannot work that out, every single Labour government we’ve ever had has bankrupted the country, fact.

    If i pay you 100k a year, and then take 50k of you in tax, i redistribute that tax to state employees or the unemplyed, and you get pissed off, and the unemployed stay unemployed and ultimately, nobody gains. If i take 10k in tax for just the essential services, then you keep 90k, you are very happy and you spend lots of money, it doesn’t matter what you buy, whether its a new car or a bigger house, or simply spend more in sainsbury’s, because you are indirectly employing 2-3 people because the shops are busier, manufacturers are selling more goods. then we have 4 people working instead of 1, so 4 people paying tax instead of 1, plus we get more corporate tax because companies are selling more goods. EVERYBODY WINS.

  17. danash123

    That’s right. According to many on the right the unions almost brought civilisation as we know it to its knees in the 70s so they had to be crushed. Meanwhile the banks have created more damage and cost us more than every strike in history lumped together and it’s business as usual.

  18. blarg1987

    Is that the average across the whole of Europe or UK rates? And how does it compare to their European counter parts?

    Just to clarify, what is your evidence that 70% of the population work for the state, or do you include companies that have state contracts or for,er state companies such as railways, energy sector etc?

  19. engine85

    That figure comes from the ONS and EU, that was in 2010, 53% were public sector employees working directly for the state, state contractors took it over 70% (total state spending)

    In 2010, Australia had a TOTAL of 33% the USA 42%, we had just 52% TOTAL in 1997, the average across Europe is 53%. It was simply a massive job creation scheme, and it cannot be sustained, it should be the other way around, 30% state 70% private sector. To make things worse, these people often draw salaries way above their education or qualification level, with even bigger pensions that they did not pay for. Somebody has to pay for this. A family member of mine is a prime example, she has no qualifications, she is just a clerk, she should be on minimum wage somewhere, but she works in one of these created jobs in the NHS, she earns over 30k a year, and has a huge pension that she pays very little towards, she is basically having 50% of her salary and her pension being paid for by someone wealthy (and i’m not talking millionares here, doctors/lawyers and the like), that wealthy person, who is likely from a working class background that worked hard at school (unlike her) to get a well paid job, is giving 20% of his salary to top up hers and pay her pension. In what universe is that fair ? ?

    1% of the population already pay 50% of the state income (tax is the only source of state income) how much more would you like them to pay ? ? If you push it too high, they simply go and live somewhere else.

  20. Ben blake

    FYI I am ex easyJet cabin crew and I can tell you that we work a flexible roster, typically 5 long days and 2 or 3 off. A typical day is 4 short or medium flights or 2 longer flights which is typically 12 hours but can be 14. And we are trained for just under 6 weeks not to serve tea and coffee but to get everybody off the plane in an emergency or give life saving medical treatment at 36000 feet.
    I was earning 1500 after tax on a good month but I had to fly 80 hours and sell a lot of tea and coffee to come out with that. It doesn’t go far living in the South east of England.
    Stop getting your facts from the Daily Mail and start educating yourself.

  21. blarg1987

    Can we see a link to those figures? As I want to know how they quantify the data, for example to they class Boeing and Airbus as state or private?

    Secondly, once you transfer people and support services from what are private organisations in other countries to organisations that are state controlled here, how do the figures look?

  22. engine85

    So, my facts and figures were just about perfect and your telling me to check my facts . .

    The daily mail is a blog, nothing more, i gather no facts from it at all, facts come from companies like glassdoor and payscale. Also, i know the young gent that used to train the cabin crew, although he’s not so young anymore, so i know exactly what training you recieve. I’m also aware, that easyjet only carry a basic forst aid kit, they were criticised by EASA in 2010 for not even carrying equipment to measure blood pressure and sugar levels.

    Getting everyone off the ‘aircraft’ (i used to work for Airbus) is simply a matter of opening the bloody door, if it actually crashes, your all dead.

  23. engine85

    I suggest you contact the ONS as i do not know the complete breakdown of their figures, both the ONS and EU websites are available to the general public.

    I would be amazed if Boeing or Airbus would be included, why would they be, they are both private companies that have nothing whatsoever to do with the state, they are not even UK companies. Airbus has its headquarters in the Netherlands, it is entirely independent and not even part of EADS anymore. Boeing has even less to do with the UK, they are entirely US based.

    Please give me an example of a private enterprise moving to the uk and being brought under UK state control, in fact, for it to make any difference to those figures, it would need to have a workforce of hundreds of thousands of people.

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  25. blarg1987

    The MOD is buying the A400M of Airbus, whose wings are built in the UK.

    Airbus does get a lot of work from the state for example, its helicopters etc.

    The same goes for Boeing and as you have admitted in your earlier comment state contractors which Boeing and Airbus would be classified as, should be counted appropriately in those countries comparisons.

  26. engine85

    The A400M wings are built at the Filton factory, Airbus also supplies those same aircraft to Germany, Spain, France, Turkey, Belgium, Luxembourg and Malaysia, does that mean that the workforce at Filton is also classed as state employees in Malaysia ? ? Thats a ridiculous statement, those people are not paid by the state. They have nothing to do with the state whatsoever. They are employed by a private company listed in the Netherlands. If you continue to follow that line of thought, then all the Dell employees that work in the USA are also state employees, as the government buys Dell computers, its utter nonsense.

    By any definition, a state employee is an individual that is paid from the state purse, i would imagine that a small private cleaning contractor that an NHS hospital sub contracts to, would certainly count as they are paid by the state through a 3rd party. The MOD civilians at Brize Norton that carry out maintenance on the A400M airframes owned by the MOD and operated by the RAF would certainly be classed as a state employee,

  27. blarg1987

    By definition yes as those Airbus employees are being paid by those states purses as your definition applies.

    But to get the 70% figure for the UK I bet you that is how it is measured here, but not been done abroad.

  28. Random

    Engine85, you’re an arsehole!!! Enough said!

  29. Random

    Engine85, you’re seriously an arsehole! Bye bye!

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  31. Sarah

    I work 6 days on 3 days off all year round not just summer I Can work anything between 6 and 12 hours with normally 11 hours rest
    The strike is no longer about the pay that issue fizzled out long ago it’s the way were treated. I’ve been there almost ten years and I’m working more hours got less money and less care and compassion. Funny that I’ve never signed another contract tho. The company compare us to the like of Thomas Cook and monarch when there is no comparison actually
    And Thomas Cook crew earn more then us and do less hours ago actually were fighting for quality of life now not just the money
    Support us or not that’s your choice

  32. Sarah

    Actually we carry defibrillators and a doctors kit now so no you don’t know alot

  33. engine85

    My apologies, i see you signed a contract with Defibtech on 16th Dec 2014.

  34. engine85

    Believe ot or not, i do support you, as long as you don’t make unrealistic demands.

    But striking during the summer holidays just alienates the british public, a strike in October affects Easyjet almost as much, but does not alienate the british public, whose support you ultimately need.

    The unions have long thought that strikes during peak times for any company gets it noticed more and puts more pressure on the company, but it has been proved over and over again that all is does is turn public support against the staff of that company.

    The people that really suffer are the mums and dads with children stuck in departure lounges for days on end, If your argument is with Easyjet, then take it out on them, go on strike in Oct. The Unions have never got that into their thick heads.

  35. Patrick Nelson

    The winter of discontent was a Soviet attack on British Social Democracy and the Labour movement through their agents such as Jack Jones according to KGB defectors such as Oleg Gordievsky.

    Anyway you should be pleased with it as it caused the opening that allowed Maggie Witch Thatcher to start dismantling the country and turning its people into slaves.

  36. Patrick Nelson

    The 1970s were not the glory days of the trades union movement they were dark days in which Labour had weakly failed to implement “in Place of Strife” which would have prevented the winter of discontent from igniting in the first place.

  37. Margaret Seymour

    I think it is disgusting that EasyJet have not paid anything to their new staff, even though they have received letters confirming they have passed their probation they were excluded from the increase as they ‘are probationers’!!!! Stelios would never have done this to any of these hard working, dedicated crew. Come on easyJet you know it’s wrong

  38. Margaret Seymour

    I think you need to check your facts engine85. They are often well qualified and chosen from a huge applicant base. They work extremely hard and can be re-rostered at any moment. It is so typical of someone who doesn’t work in the industry, I don’t but have contacts who do and they are mostly exhausted on their precious days off so that people like you can get your cheap flights

  39. Margaret Seymour

    Ignorant and outdated

  40. engine85

    Really, these are if course, A level students and university graduates ? ? Everything i have stated is a fact, whereas your comments are from the heart because you have friends that wok there, As I have already stated, I know the trainers and the pilots as well as several staff myself, I’m afraid if you continue to go through life with your rose coloured glasses allowing your heart to rule your brain then you’re in for a rough ride.

  41. Margaret Seymour

    How rude are you? Regardless of what you say I am not talking from the heart but just don’t use other people’s facts and figures to justify my comments. Have you really nothing better to do?

  42. engine85

    You attack my statement, with nothiing but ‘my friends are great and work hard’ attitude, it is NOT rude to point out facts, Everything i have said is a statement of fact, i do not make claims because my friends or friends daughters work for the company, i’m afraid whether you like it or not, ‘looking at the world through rose tinted glasses’ is exactly what you are doing.

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