Around 700 British Airways staff at the airline’s main hub, Heathrow, are expected to walk out next month after voting overwhelmingly for industrial action over a pay claim.
Members of the GMB union voted, with 95 per cent in favour of a strike. The turn-out was 80 per cent. Members of the Unite union are also expected to vote for strike action.
The GMB union says the members who voted to strike are primarily low-paid women.
They are demanding that BA reinstates a 10 per cent cut taken from them during the pandemic. They claim “bosses pay has returned to pre-pandemic levels,” with Luis Gallego – chief executive for BA’s parent company, IAG – in line for a £4.9m payout this year.
In addition, say the unions, these front-line workers are on the receiving end of verbal and sometimes physical abuse from passengers, with frequent confrontations.
Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said: “With grim predictability, holiday makers face massive disruption thanks to the pig-headedness of British Airways.
“BA have tried to offer our members crumbs from the table in the form of a 10 per cent one-off bonus payment, but this doesn’t cut the mustard.
“Our members need to be reinstated the 10 per cent they had stolen from them last year with full back pay and the 10 per cent bonus which other colleagues have been paid.
“GMB members at Heathrow have suffered untold abuse as they deal with the travel chaos caused by staff shortages and IT failures.
“At the same time, they’ve had their pay slashed during BA’s callous fire and rehire policy.
“It’s not too late to save the summer holidays – other BA workers have had their pay cuts reversed, do the same for ground and check in staff and this industrial action can be nipped in the bid.”
Because two weeks’ notice of industrial action must be given to an employer, the earliest that a stoppage could begin is 8 July.
The GMB said in a statement: “Industrial action dates will be confirmed in the coming days but are likely to be during the peak summer holiday period.”
Insiders have suggested that a first bout of strike action could take place as soon as the weekend of 9 and 10 July, coinciding with the first weekend of summer holidays for many public schools in England.
One BA insider said the intention was to disrupt the journeys of high-spending customers. “They’re going straight for the BA Club World demographic,” the source said.
A spokesperson for British Airways said: “We’re extremely disappointed with the result and that the unions have chosen to take this course of action.
“Despite the extremely challenging environment and losses of more than £4bn, we made an offer of a 10 per cent payment which was accepted by the majority of other colleagues.
“We are fully committed to work together to find a solution, because to deliver for our customers and rebuild our business we have to work as a team. We will of course keep our customers updated about what this means for them as the situation evolves.”
The Independent understands that the 10 per cent offered by BA was a one-off payment that would not be consolidated into basic pay.