British Airways Cabin Crew Votes to Strike

January 16, 2007 ( - Despite the support of most of its major union groups for a new pension proposal, British Airways Plc cabin crew voted by a 96.1% majority to strike as a protest against the airline's policies on sick leave, pay and staffing.

Eighty percent of the members of the Transport & General Workers union took part in the balloting, which began in December, according to Bloomberg. Officials from T&G, which represents more than 20,000 British Airways employees (including 11,000 cabin crew) will meet with British Airways today to try to avert a strike.

The cabin crew vote is the latest in a series of labor disputes between unions and the airline. Last week the GMB union, which represents British Airways’ baggage handlers and ground staff, voted to reject the company’s new pension proposal (see BA Unions (Mostly) Back Pension Proposal ).

Pressure Building

In a statement , the union said the cabin crew’s concerns, which include issues over the implementation of sickness absence policies as well as pay grading and on board staffing and responsibility levels, had built up over the last two years but had failed to be addressed properly by the company’s senior management. Among its complaints, the union claims staff are being forced to work when they are unwell under new absence rules and that some higher pay grades are being abolished. According to the Guardian, the T&G is expected to issue a statement on the pensions dispute this week.

BA says that it is merely asking for doctors’ notes and monitoring workers who are often absent in an effort to cut down the average of 22 sick days taken by cabin crew each year.

On the pension issue, “The union says that one of its key concerns is pensions, yet we have just concluded 16 months of talks by accepting a proposal put forward by the T&G and our other unions,” British Airways said in a statement . “On that basis alone, we believe the T&G should pause to reflect before threatening the travel plans of our customers.”

However, t he pensions proposal, which the union appeared to support just last week, “is not a done deal,” Andrew Dodgshon, a spokesman for T&G, said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. “The cabin workers feel that BA is managing by imposition rather than agreement and that they are being taken for granted.” He said the union had only recommended that its members vote on the plan.

British Airways needs to resolve its 2.1 billion-pound ($4 billion) pension deficit to upgrade its fleet with more fuel efficient planes. The proposed deal would cut the deficit to less than 1 billion pounds.