Cabin Crew Ballot Begins Unite Accuses BA of Refusing to see Sense and Save Airline

By Unite The Union, PRNE
Saturday, June 26, 2010

LONDON, June 28, 2010 - A new ballot of nearly 11,000 cabin crew at British Airways will begin
tomorrow (Tuesday) as workers continue to defend the airline against the
attack on its standards and end the management by intimidation destroying
BA's international standing.

Unite the union says that BA has made no efforts to resolve the new
issues through negotiation, choosing instead to launch a confrontational
recruitment campaign which will see new crew employed on poverty pay terms.
The new fleet will be employed on a wage of GBP11,500 - well below rivals
such as easy Jet, making BA cabin crew one of the forty worst paid jobs in
the UK, and seeing the national carrier promote income inequality in the UK.

The union says the company's intransigence and its astonishing, illogical
assault on its own brand, employees and future leaves it no choice but to
ballot its members for industrial action.

Writing to cabin crew members ahead of the start of the ballot, Unite
joint general secretaries Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley say:

"Willie Walsh … has made it clear that he sees his war on his own
employees as a fight to the finish. He is telling everyone that you no longer
support the union, that you won't vote for more strikes and that if you do it
won't make any difference anyway. He hopes he is within sight of achieving
his aim - crushing cabin crew and breaking the union. That is why he has
spurned every sensible compromise aimed at solving the dispute.

"We know that BA cannot carry on losing millions of pounds a day,
trashing its reputation and handing its customers over to competitors

"This ballot is your chance to tell management you reject its attitude
and its treatment of you as dedicated and loyal professionals."

Unite says that the three new issues of dispute are:

* The failure by British Airways to respect collective agreements. The
company is transferring employees from other areas to operate as cabin crew,
and introducing temporary crew on inferior terms and conditions. Unite
regards this as divisive and contemptuous of every single crew employee;

* The removal of travel assistance thousands of crew who took legal,
democratically-balloted, strike action. Unite is demanding the full
reinstatement of this no-cost measure, without discrimination and penalties;

* The vindictive and disproportionate disciplinary action taken against
scores of crew, which has seen colleagues sanctioned or sacked for trivial
matters, in contravention of the draft agreement the company had negotiated
as a possible basis for ending the dispute. Unite wants all such cases need
to be independently scrutinised.

The joint general secretaries repeat that strenuous efforts have been
made by the union to resolve the issues through negotiation but warns that
BA's management will accept nothing less than the destruction of current

"We have been frustrated by a senior management that has consistently put
its desire to crush you and your union before common sense and business

The ballot of Heathrow crew will open tomorrow, Tuesday, and will run
until Tuesday, July 27th. A ballot of the Gatwick crew will shortly follow,
again concluding on Tuesday, July 27th.

Unite will continue to press for wiser counsel to prevail at BA and for
meaningful negotiations to end the dispute. However, the union says that if
BA still refuses to see sense, and crew do vote for industrial action, then
it will continue to give crew the same strong support, including financially,
that it has done to date.

The last strike cost BA at least GBP154 million. The Manchester Business
School has warned that the damage to BA's brand will cost the airline around
GBP1.4 billion. Unite is concerned that forward bookings at the airline are
down for the peak summer period as passengers abandon the low-cost model
desired by BA management.

    Notes - New Fleet sees blue chip BA transform into poverty payer

    - BA is now introducing a New Fleet of cabin crew. The new crew
      will earn GBP11,500 basic wage with the ability to top this up to
      GBP13,750 through trips.
    - According to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, sorted by
      median wage, there are only 40 lower paid jobs in the UK economy.
      These include cashiers, some retail jobs, care assistants and
      hairdressers. The new fleet wage will be far below the median wage
      for the whole economy, which is GBP21,320.
    - New fleet means BA is now officially a low wage employer. The
      Hills inequality report produced by the (last) Government puts the
      new wage in the lowest 15% income in the county.

For further information, please contact Pauline Doyle on +44(0)7976-832-861

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