With any walkout scheduled to coincide with the busy summer holidays when travel demand is expected to peak, hundreds of British Airways check-in agents and ground personnel have decisively voted in favor of strike action.
Around 700 staff represented by the GMB and Unite unions are set to strike in a dispute over pandemic-era pay cuts that they are demanding be restored in full.
The Unite union said that its members had supported strike action by 94.7% after the poll, while 95% of GMB members had voted in favor of industrial action as of Thursday at 2 p.m.
The unions must give British Airways at least two weeks’ notice of any planned strikes, which are expected to be announced in the coming days. In the final two weeks of July, the majority of schools in England and Wales break up for a long summer break.
“These workers are claiming back what they had robbed from them due to BA’s callous fire and rehire during the pandemic,” slammed Nadine Houghton, national officer of the GMB union.
“BA forced our members into pay cuts during the pandemic when they had little workplace power to fight back,” Houghton said last month. “Now our members are back at work and staff shortages are hammering the company – it is their time to claim back what is theirs.”
The two unions that represent check-in personnel want British Airways to permanently restore the 10% pandemic wage cut, but the airline has only given a one-time incentive in that amount.
British Airways has been attempting to appoint fresh check-in personnel who might not yet be covered by a union or who are not directly involved in the most recent conflict. On order to substitute for a striking workforce, the airline has also been instructing hundreds of managers in the check-in process.
However, if a strike occurs, British Airways may be forced to cancel hundreds of flights from its Heathrow hub, leaving passengers in the midst of travel chaos.
Along with today’s official strike vote outcome, hundreds of BA employees represented by Unite already supported strike action in a consultative poll that was not legally binding. Over 97% of Unite members, including flight attendants, engineers, and luggage handlers, said they would support a strike over salary.
“British Airways’ management now can no longer ignore the universal discontent across their own workforce, in the way they have ignored the needs of their own customers,” the Unite union warned.
“BA’s leadership created this chaos,” the union slammed. “The responsibility to resolve it lies entirely with the airline.”
The official ballot has not yet been announced by the union.