British Airways Cabin Crew are set to vote overwhelmingly for strike action. This could take place anytime from the end of January through to the end of March. To you our customers we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience you may be caused during this time.
Negotiations between our Trade Union -- Bassa and BA management have broken down and last Friday, the 15th December, BA management escorted our representatives off the premises and closed the Bassa office. We are now being balloted for Industrial Action. This ballot will close on 12th January.
British Airways Cabin Crew would like it to be known that they absolutely do not want to withdraw their labour. As Cabin Crew it is our job to look after the travelling public, conveying each and every one of you as safely and as comfortably as we possibly can from A to B. This we do with great pride.
We love what we do, pride ourselves on giving you value for money, a quality service and on many occasions go out of our way to ensure you enjoy your flight and will want to fly with us again. In exceptional circumstances we may have to evacuate you from an aircraft -- as our crew in Houston did when an engine caught fire. We may have to perform life saving CPR and defibrillation, perform maternity duties along with restraining unruly passengers. Needless to say, we are trained and prepared for every eventuality and we conduct these in a thoroughly professional manner, always.
Obviously there are occasions when circumstances conspire against us, both for you the public and us as your crew, but it is often these very circumstances when our passengers appreciate most that they are with a British Airways Cabin Crew. This is borne out by us constantly exceeding every 'Customer Service' target British Airways have ever set for us and also the clutch of industry awards we win every year - including this year where thanks to our hard work and the votes of you our customers, we walked away with the Best Cabin Crew award.
However, things are not all rosy with the current management of British Airways. Historically, we have always had a proper business relationship with our management. As with any commercial environment or business scenario, there has to be an appropriate level of give and take on both sides in order for anything to work. However, our new management team wish to make a lot of changes.
They have approached these changes by not informing us, their staff, of their intentions. The only communications we have received regarding 'changes' have been through our Trade Union. British Airways management are refusing to negotiate with our Trade Union Representatives, declaring their intention to introduce the changes without discussion and openly stating that "we will walk right through you". Whilst refusing to negotiate on the planned changes (which in real terms mean cutbacks), our representatives were informed by BA management that they plan to bring in an hourly rate for cabin crew, rather than the allowances we are paid at present which are linked to the cost of living for the destinations in which we stay. This, in simplified terms means a serious pay cut of around £6,000 per year for most crew. They then added that they intend to 'save' a further £37 million pounds from our department -- 'In-flight Services'. We have already been 'cut to the bone' -- there really is very little left. When the company was on shaky ground a few years ago we agreed to no pay increases for a number of years to help it back on its feet. We have given and given, whilst the company have taken - and taken more.
The changes BA management want to make are both to our working agreements and to our employment contracts, including but not limited to increasing our working contract by 10 years in order for us to see our pension, cuts in pay, no pay increases at all after a certain time, cuts in promotion opportunities, less rest between flights, removal of working position choice and BA ignoring the wording of their own sickness policy when applying it to Cabin Crew. This certainly has health and safety implications.
As an example of our new sickness policy (EG300)-- A world wide crew member who has lived all her life on the south coast towards Portsmouth has recently had problems with her vision deteriorating, which has sadly led to an element of blindness. She can no longer fly or drive due to her condition. BA has been quick to 'manage' her under EG300, changed the rules to deny her a medical incapacity pension and has simply given her notice to accept a job on the ground or be dismissed. "How will I commute from where I live as I'm not allowed to drive?" she legitimately asked.
"MOVE" came the caring reply.
At present we are contracted with the airline to work until we are 55 years old. The reason for this is quite simply that 'we die younger'! Also each hour we work in the air is equivalent to working 2 hours on the ground. So as you can see -- an 11 hour flight to LAX is, in reality 22 hours worth on the body. The job is a very physical one and you are required to be 100% fit, both physically and mentally to be able to last the course.
Back in 1971 with the introduction of extensive jet travel, exposure to greater levels of cosmic radiation, longer range aircraft (747) and less recovery time down route, it was agreed with the management and the pension trustees that flying crew would retire five years earlier than ground staff at 55.
One of the settlements of the 1997 Cabin Crew Strike was that the company would look at an option to increase the retirement age for Cabin Crew, at no cost to BA, for those who wanted it. Talks broke down, as we could not make this cost effective without significant detrimental effect on our agreements, through the additional costs involved.
At the same time, some crew that were nearing retirement, formed Option 55, which independently took BA to employment tribunal to try and get the 55 age limit raised as a choice option for crew. BA put up a rigorous defence, employing the finest barristers and legal counsel that money could buy and won the original legal argument and subsequent appeal. During the tribunal, the head of cabin crew industrial relations (whilst on the witness stand) stated under oath, as part of his sworn testimony, that BA would be irresponsible to allow crew to work beyond 55 because of long term concerns over their health and the effects that flying at this age would have.
If we were 'forced' to work until 65 then quite simply it won't be worth saving for a PENSION because we won't be alive to spend it!
Our CEO -- Willie Walsh is intent on 'bringing us into line' with other departments within BA who have 'negotiated' deals. Negotiation or imposition? We can't comment as we truly do not know the facts.
However from the Evening Standard -- 09 August, 2006:
'£75M SHARES POT TO REWARD BA'S BOSSES -
British Airways is setting aside 20 million shares currently worth £75M to reward its top brass, headed by chief executive Willie Walsh.
The share will be ring-fenced in a special savings scheme which pays out to BA executives depending on their success in running the business.
The future looks bright for the airlines' executive directors after a 57% leap in first quarter profits gave them a flying start in the quest to drive up performance.
Walsh, who received a total of £961,000 from his May 2005 start date to BA's year end in March, can earn a bonus equivalent to 100% of salary split between cash and shares.
Last year, Walsh who stepped into the chief executives role in October was awarded a £270,000 bonus on top of his £548,000 pro-rata basic pay. His pay has since increased to £600,000.
Other likely beneficiaries of the executive share option scheme -- open to middle management up to board director level -- include chief financial Keith Williams.'
So while our top brass feather their nests by rewarding themselves huge bonuses and salaries we at the lower end are expected to 'perform' harder, work with fewer crew onboard, work with a reduced product, faults to In-flight entertainment, broken seats, lighting that does not work properly, toilets that do not flush and take pay cuts. If these things happened on a daily basis at the 'prestigious' BA headquarters -- 'Waterside' there would be outrage!
The changes BA want for us go beyond simply working harder in a changing commercial and security conscious environment. They will affect our lives outside work, our take home pay and most importantly our family life outside of work. They will also have a knock on effect to you, our passengers.
We are not asking for more. We are not a militant group. We only want to keep what little we have left. We understand the need to be competitive in this day and age and we believe we have struck a balance in the market place. We are making sufficient profit in a particularly challenging environment, if we were not we could understand the need for further cutbacks. However, our management have cut back on the very areas where more investment is needed -- on front line staff. They now plan to introduce a further 44 new managers to In-flight Services, when we are already 'awash' with too many managers.
We are still trying to get our management to talk to us but they are telling us "we have nothing to talk about". Unfortunately at the moment we are not seen as people - and we are just like every one of you, doing the best we can to earn a living. As it stands, we are only a 'number' not an individual. We are just expendable staff numbers. We are not valued by our management, in fact quite the opposite.
There are many more 'grievances' involved with this dispute, but it would take so long to explain all of the intricate details to you. This is quite a lot to read already.
At the moment, a strike is the only way we have of standing up for ourselves and forcing our management to open proper discussions regarding our contracts and our future employment. This can all be avoided with the application of a reasonable attitude and a dose of common sense from British Airways management, but anyone who followed the recent 'cross
wearing' debacle will know that those qualities seem to be more lacking, the higher up the British Airways management tree you climb.
Should a strike happen and should you be caught up in the chaos it will cause, British Airways Cabin Crew humbly and sincerely apologise to you. It really is the last thing we want to happen.
If you have non-changeable travel plans with British Airways from January
to March next year, you can write to our chief executive Willie Walsh at
British Airways plc
PO Box 365
Or e-mail customer relations using this link:
Please urge him to treat his employees properly or simply provide him with your thoughts on British Airways current management style.
We thank you for taking the time to read this.
British Airways Cabin Crew
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