It appears that the final casualty from the current round of strikes being undertaken by BA’s cabin crew will be BA122. The Boeing 777 from Doha to London was due to take off at 7am on the 31st of August, but the strike by members of BA’s mixed fleet crew at Heathrow continued their strike, ensuring that not only was the outbound flight cancelled, but the return leg was too.
An estimated 1,400 Unite members have been on strike almost constantly for July and August in dispute over “poverty pay” and an issue wherein previous strikers have been refused bonuses. Those numbers represent around one in 12 of BA’s cabin crew, but it’s been enough to cause disruption to a number of flights.
The ‘mixed fleet’ was set up in 2010 as part of the settlement of the last big cabin crew dispute at British Airways, but staff have inferior employment terms to longer serving members of the crew. Unite estimate that the mixed fleet cabin crew earn just £16k annually, including allowances. However, BA say they don’t recognise that sum, with the lowest a mixed fleet member earned last year was £21k, by their reckoning.
Now, after 60 days of strikes and customers seeking the British Airways contact details, Unite are calling for a “pause for peace” and further negotiations with the airline.
The union’s national officer, Oliver Richardson, spoke to The Independent, commenting: “Our members have shown great determination to highlight poverty pay, corporate greed and the bullying behaviour of British Airways.
“The action led to flights being cancelled and British Airways being forced to spend millions on wet leasing aircraft to cover the operational disruption.
“British Airways should use this ‘pause for peace’ in industrial action to reach a settlement to this long running dispute so it can rebuild its tarnished brand.”
However, British Airways have enjoyed less flight disruption than previously imagined, thanks partly to the geo-political rift in the gulf, which has suspended many flights from Qatar and meant that their jets and crew have been available to help British Airways plug their gaps. It also helps that Qatar Airways are one-fifth owned by BA’s parent company, IAG.
A pattern has begun to emerge with Qatar airways being utilised to replace cancelled flights, with the Heathrow-Doha round-trip cancelled every day, and passengers re-booked on the frequent Qatar Airways flights. It’s been a comfortable relationship for the pair, but it’s no substitute for happy staff.
The longer the strike saga drags on, the more it begins to affect employee morale and the more negative press it attracts. As a premium brand, BA simply can’t afford to let this drag out forever – especially if the situation on the Gulf resolves itself.
BA have said that they will wait to discuss arrangement to meet when the strike is over, so we may well have some news regarding the strikes soon.