British Airways faces the risk of industrial action after it cut the equivalent of 1,700 jobs, changed working practices and announced plans to impose a two-year pay freeze for basic cabin crew without seeking union agreement.
The cost-cutting measures were announced earlier this week when the airline confirmed that 1,000 staff had asked to take voluntary redundancy and a further 3,000 would like to switch to part-time work – together equivalent to the loss of 1,700 full time jobs.
Unite – the union that represents the airline’s 14,000 cabin crew – condemned the changes, which will be effective from the end of November. It has demanded that the airline remove imposed changes and resume talks or risk a “serious, drawn-out confrontation with its workforce”, raising fears that employees might strike over the changes during the busy Christmas period.
It warned that the proposals involve significant contractual changes for remaining employees and introduce “a second tier workforce on poorer pay and conditions”.
However, BA said it had been in talks with cabin crew unions since the start of the year, but had made little progress “on the contribution they might make”.
“We have consulted on these changes and are not altering anything that requires negotiation,” it said in a statement.
The airline also claimed the changes would not alter contractual terms and conditions for individual crew members.
Brian Boyd, Unite national officer, warned that the company was “wringing more and more out of fewer and fewer staff who will be paid less”.
He said: “Working hours will be extended, crew levels will be slashed, career opportunities will disappear and new starters will be brought in on basement wages.”
Steve Turner, Unite national officer for aviation, said: “This imposition is completely unacceptable. It is a disgraceful attempt to intimidate workers into accepting poorer contracts.
“This imposition must be withdrawn. BA must step back from the brink and get back round the table to talk.”