|BA's 2009 strike caused thousands of Christmas and New Year cancellations|
Thousands of crew (thought to be around 2,000 who actually voted) working for British Airways have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in a drawn out pay and conditions dispute, according to the Unite Trade union on Wednesday December 14th.
In a statement issued by the Union, it claimed around 2,500 Unite members - who crew both long and short-haul routes to major destinations - could walk out after December 21st effectively wrecking flight scheduling for almost a million air travellers over the busy Christmas period and possibly for several weeks afterwards, as the aircraft fleet would be wrongly positioned. In addition, the scramble for alternative tickets on other airlines, will add to the chaos.
According to the Unite Union, those taking part in the ballot were members of IAG-owned BA's "Mixed Fleet," which covers all BA's cabin crew employees joining after 2010. The Union claims many are on a basic salary of just £12k a year, rising to £16k.
Following the 2009 spate of industrial unrest. BA split the cabin staff employees into three distinct groups Eurofleet, Worldwide and all newcomers placed in Mixed Crew Fleet.
Eurofleet and Wordwide groups comprising existing staff already had generous legacy paydeals in place carried over from the old style BA, but the Mixed Fleet members (basically all new post 2010 employees) were offered very different terms and at much lower rates, in order to match and compete with the new breed of low cost airlines such as easyjet and Ryanair.
Investors in BA, now a brand of the Spanish based International Airlines Group (IAG), gave the airlines directors a very rough ride during some key investor meetings, demanding CEO Willie Walsh dramatically slash and contain BA operating costs in line with other carriers.
Also complicating matters, is the overnight decision by the US Federal Reserve to raise US$ interest rates - for the first time since 2006 by 0.25%. The 'hike' follows a full two-day policy meeting, Fed officials decided on Wednesday to move the range of rates, banks offer to lend to each other overnight - known as the Federal Funds rate - to between 0.25% and 0.5%. The majority of Aviation transactions such as fuel and airport landing charges are calculated in US$
Those voting for industrial action represented some 15 percent of the airline's stewards. 79 percent of crew taking part in the ballot voted for strike action. The overall turnout being 60 percent.
Unite regional officer Matt Smith commented: "Mixed fleet crew earn just over the minimum wage and below the national average. Our members have overwhelmingly voted for strike action because British Airways' pay rates are indefensible, and the crew are at breaking point."
The union claimed staff were having to sleep in their cars between shifts and take on several jobs in order to make ends meet. Cabin crew whose prime role is to handle emergency evacuations in case of incidents, were repeatedly clocking on tired and unrested.
BA responded in a statement: "We are extremely disappointed that the [Unite] union is creating uncertainty for our customers. We remain focused on resolving this issue as quickly as possible without any disruption to customers."
Between 2009 and 2011, BA was the subject of two years intense industrial action as it attempted to cut 1,700 cabin crew jobs from its payroll and freeze pay.
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