The head of the union representing British Airways’ cabin crew has just sent a letter to British Airways’ CEO. Not only does the union head threaten industrial action with immediate effect, but he also says that he’s both “staggered and offended by [British Airways CEO’s] arrogance.” Ouch.
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British Airways’ labor dispute continues
Airlines around the globe are suffering right now, and are having difficult conversations with labor groups, as redundancies loom. British Airways has made the most headlines for the ways in which management has negotiated with employee groups, as the company looks to reduce its workforce by around 12,000 people. In particular:
- In May British Airways revealed plans to simplify its cabin crew structure, which would see some senior flight attendants taking permanent pay cuts of around 50%
- In June British Airways threatened to fire all pilots and rehire them individually under cheaper contracts
Fortunately British Airways has managed to come to an agreement with pilots, though the same can’t be said for cabin crew. Well, tensions between management and the union representing cabin crew have just been escalated.
British Airways union threatens industrial action
Len McCluskey is the General Secretary of UNITE, which is the union representing British Airways’ cabin crew. Yesterday he sent quite the letter to British Airways CEO Alex Cruz.
It reads like one of those angry emails you might type out, but when you calm down you realize that you’re probably better off not sending it.
But nope, this letter was sent, and it’s quite something. McCluskey is threatening industrial action with immediate effect, but there’s so much more in this letter that’s interesting to read.
Here’s the note that was sent to Cruz, in its entirety:
I am in receipt of your email dated 26 July and I am both staggered and offended by your arrogance.
In the opening paragraph you state “it has taken this long for you to realise and accept this”. This reference infers that I am only now understanding the financial difficulties that British Airways face. How dare you suggest such a thing. I have attempted for months to try to get you to understand the need to treat your workers with respect and dignity and this is the only way to get through this pandemic together. It is your staff, not you, that have for many years, built the good name of British Airways and contributed billions of pounds to its profitability year on year.
Your decision to adopt a scorched earth strategy with a ‘Fire and Rehire’ approach was always despicable. You and your management team have dragged the good name of British Airways through the mud. Have you ever asked yourself why so many MPs from all parties, at the highest level, have condemned British Airways or why newspaper and media outlets have been appalled at your actions? Perhaps you don’t understand that the British sense of ‘Fair Play’ runs deep in the psyche of the British people.
I am advised that no sooner are certain issues on process agreed then the company management renege on them, it beggars the question as to who is running the show – so much so that it is my intention to seek meetings with Antonio Vazquez Romero and IAG.
Also, please don’t insult me by asking ”how many of my members I have spoken to?” When you know full well that you have received thousands of heartfelt emails from your staff that you have ignored and or deleted without even reading. My shop stewards and reps speak to members constantly, dealing with the stress, anxiety and heart ache caused by your management style and strategy. Instead of criticising Unite reps, you should actually listen to them, instead of pretending to do so in order that you can tick some consultative process box and you might, at long last, realise that the only way to have a lasting peace and avoid months/years of industrial unrest is to work with us to achieve an acceptable way forward.
You have now published a timetable to Fire and Rehire thousands of your workforce on 7 August, we will work every hour between now and then, to convince you not to do so.
You can take this letter as our commitment to do that. However, you can also take this an intention to defend our members by moving towards industrial action with immediate effect.
While British Airways management worked out an agreement with pilots, it looks like the same can’t be said for cabin crew. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the cabin crew labor situation is significantly more complicated due to “Mixed Fleet.”
It’ll be worth watching how this unfolds. Ultimately even industrial action may not really get the union far, given greatly reduced capacity, as well as the vastly different contracts that different cabin crew have.
What do you make of this letter to British Airways’ CEO?