British Airways (BA) reached an agreement today with Unite and GMB trade unions’ members at Heathrow Airport. This followed hard criticism last week by Unite that BA was trying to “smash” the union by making the work environment difficult for union members. BA believes the agreement proves that they are willing to work closely with trade unions.
The agreement between BA and the 2,850 customer services employees at Heathrow eliminates 500 jobs. The jobs will terminate by March 2011 from Heathrow terminals 3 and 5. BA announced they had come to similar agreements with the pilot’s union, Balpa, and the engineers which are also represented by Unite.
Out of the 500 eliminated jobs 300 will involve voluntary redundancy and workers moving to voluntary part time contracts. More flexible working arrangements for employees are also a part of the agreement between the union members and BA.
BA’s chief executive, Willie Walsh, said the deal proves that BA is committed to strong relationships with their employee’s trade unions. “This is another important step towards securing permanent structural change and the long-term future of the company. It also underlines our commitment to working with all of our trade unions, including Unite.”
The airline is still in dispute with 11,000 Unite cabin crew members. The dispute is over a change to working practices last year that were a result of reducing cabin crew numbers due to cost savings by BA. There was a 22 day strike as a result and BA stripped travel perks from the 6,700 or so flight attendants that participated in the walkout. Unite wants the perks reinstated but BA refuses to do so. BA has stated that perks are for those that are loyal to the company and not those that harm profits.
Unite has warned that further strike ballots to the cabin crew union members is inevitable and it may call upon other Unite members to join in and support a future cabin crew walkout.