The travel chaos affecting UK passengers is set to escalate this summer, after British Airways staff went on strike during school holidays and talks to prevent further industrial operations on the train disintegrated without an agreement.
Some 700 BA check-in crews at London Heathrow Airport have agreed to strike in a wage dispute, with unions promising a “severe disruption” scheduled to coincide with the summer rush to fly overseas.
The results of the vote were announced when the UK railways were hit by strikes for the second time in three days, with further industrial operations planned to sit.
The prospect of a disruption at the UK’s busiest airport has rekindled fears the country is facing a summer of dissatisfaction, raising memories of the delays and cancellations that have plagued airports this month.
BA expects strikes will affect about half of its check-in staff at Heathrow, after both GMB and United unions said 95% of their members voted in favor of industrial action.
GMB said the strike dates would be approved in the coming days, and “they will most likely be in the peak period of summer vacation.” United, which represents about 500 check-in teams at Heathrow, said it had given BA a “short window” to come back with an improved offer before setting strike dates. He will have to give two weeks’ notice before any action is taken.
The union is demanding that wages be returned to pre-epidemic levels, following a 10 per cent cut imposed by BA when the industry was virtually shut down due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Management has already been returned to full pay, United said.
The airline, which has lost £ 4 billion in the last two years, instead offered a one-time reward of 10% of the salary, instead of a full salary increase. This was received by other parts of the business, including staff and ground staff.
The union reached an agreement this month on a 10% wage increase for 200 workers employed by British Airways Gatwick Ground Handlers.
BA said it was “very disappointed” but “committed to working together” with the team to find a solution, while the Business Travel Association said the strikes were “amusing the livelihoods of business people”.
The airline has already had to cut 10% of its flight schedules this summer due to a shortage of crew, and the planned strikes are a big test for CEO Sean Doyle, who has made repairing the relationship with the crew a priority.
The tenure of his predecessor, Alex Cruz, was damaged by a harmful pilots’ strike and damaged relations with trade unions during the epidemic, when the airline lost about 10,000 workers.
“British Airways GMB’s strike dispute will be an interesting test case after Boris Johnson pushed companies “Stay in the course” During wage disputes, “said Paul Charles, a travel consultant.
“British Airways would not want a strike on its hands during the peak summer season,” he added.
Other airlines, including EasyJet and Ryanair, are also facing industrial action in some parts of continental Europe.
Ministers meanwhile remain “hoping” that a wage agreement can be reached with railway unions to prevent further strikes, government officials said, but both sides failed to reach an agreement on Thursday.
A senior government official close to the negotiations said the union’s private position was markedly different from the public rhetoric of its executives.
“The RMT makes a lot more sense in private conversations than in belligerent public language,” he said. “We still hope we can make a deal.”
Another senior official said the fact that the RMT did not announce further strike dates this summer “implies that there is still room to make a deal”.
There were some signs of a thaw in the relationship on Thursday. The two sides met for talks, a day after the RMT refused to negotiate unless a threat to cut jobs was removed from the table.
Network Rail chiefs see a trajectory for a deal that includes higher wage increases and slightly mandatory layoffs, in exchange for changing work practices within the large maintenance bodies of the public body.
The two groups of maintenance representatives met on Thursday to discuss the “inclination” of the changes, which was a “slightly positive sign,” one railroad director said.
“RMT will continue its industrial campaign until a settlement is reached,” said union general secretary Mick Lynch.
Ministers also introduced new legislation on Thursday to make it easier for businesses to use the agency’s “skilled and temporary” staff to reduce disruptions caused by industrial action, a move stretched by Labor and the Trade Union Congress.
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