Hundreds of British Airways check-in and ground staff at Heathrow airport have voted in favour of walkouts this summer.
Unions including the GMB and Unite balloted about 700 workers on industrial action. GMB members voted by 91% in favour of industrial action while Unite said 94% of its members backed action.
Strike dates will be confirmed in the coming days but the GMB has confirmed they are likely to be during the summer holiday period.
Both the GMB and Unite unions said the Heathrow strikes were over a 10% cut in pay imposed on staff during the pandemic, which they said had not been reinstated. BA said it had offered staff a 10% “payment”. But union chiefs countered that the offer was a one-off and employees wanted to see the full salary returned.
The GMB has accused BA of using “fire and rehire” practices to cut workers’ pay during the Covid pandemic at a time when employees had no means of defending their rights and benefits.
“All our members are asking for – and these are primarily low-paid women – is for BA to reinstate the 10% taken from them during the pandemic,” a GMB spokesperson said.
BA said earlier: “After a deeply difficult two years which saw the business lose more than £4bn, these colleagues were offered a 10% payment for this year which was rejected.
“We remain fully committed to talks with our trade unions about their concerns and we hope that together we can find a way to reach an agreement in the best interests of our people and our customers.”
Unions also accused BA of hypocrisy as senior managers’ pay had returned to pre-pandemic levels, while the chief executive of BA’s parent company IAG, Luis Gallego, is set to receive a £4.9m payout this year if his targets are reached.
Shareholders revolted against Gallego’s pay package last week, with about a quarter of investors rejecting it. Investment advisers Glass Lewis and ISS said the pay plan was “excessive”.
Nadine Houghton, a GMB national officer, said: “With grim predictability, holiday makers face massive disruption thanks to the pig-headedness of British Airways.
“Our members need to be reinstated the 10% they had stolen from them last year with full back pay and the 10% 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.
“What did BA think was going to happen? 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.”
In a separate dispute over wages, thousands of BA engineers, at Heathrow, Gatwick and in Scotland, along with call centre staff in Manchester and Newcastle, are carrying out consultative ballots over industrial action.
Both Heathrow and Gatwick are cutting back on daily flight numbers as the airports grapple with staff shortages caused by Brexit and the pandemic.