Tuesday, 20 December 2016

BA Christmas Cheer

At the end of Unite's last BA cabin crew strike the airline pretty much had the union up against the wall and could have achieved pretty much  all it wanted in terms of new flexibility and the ability to compete with the new low cost competition at home and abroad. Instead in a tender hearted belief that a soft deal and its accompanying goodwill would achieve lasting harmony it largely let the union off the hook and just walked away from major key needs , primarily pocketing an agreement to create a new group of lower paid cabin staff. These were to be labelled Mid Fleet and were/are to operate entirely separately from existing groups and never fly together or on the same routes. Female staff were to wear hats, something which existing people have long refused to do. Mid Fleet wasn't a massive achievement as it didn't address the improved flexibility needed right across all cabin crew and it added complexity to rostering and in times of service disruption.. It was a small  takeaway for a management which seemed happy to throw away its winning hand.. Those who knew more about industrial relations wondered how long any sweetness and light would last.

The new Mid Fleet has gradually grown and is now around 15% of BA's total cabin crew, leaving it quite some way to go before it produces the real savings. Its people are generally but not entirely younger, tend to see the role as a short term one rather than a lifetime career. Most are enthusiastic about the job. Indeed in many cases love it and the life style.That is not good news to any union. Happy, motivated people who accept their terms and conditions and just want to get on with their job are not good picket lines fodder,- or payers of union dues.

It is no surprise therefore that Unite is back in the strike business and being in festive mood is calling its Mid Fleet people out on 25th and 26th December. Talks at ACAS may or may not produce a fudge but despite the sensitive time of year BA should be careful about any short term fixes/bungs in the name of goodwill. They can be very expensive and mortgage the future. Already on the shorthaul network it looks as if the IAG future could be Vuelling on a BA codeshare rather than BA mainline.

The Unite leadership chose a Christmas walkout for its media value. Its disregard of the effect on the passengers is matched by its disregard for its members' Christmas arrangements as well. Many of the affected cabin crew will have made arrangements based on their rosters. Some who expected to be back home will now not be and others who had planned to be away, and have family members with them, will now be at home.. Strikers will of course lose pay and allowances for not turning up. the union leadership meanwhile will lose no pay at all. Nor will they have their holiday arrangements disrupted. Once more the footsoldiers take the pain while their leaders relax as planned. No pain for them. There never is.  

Meanwhile BA has cooked up something festive for the customers who do fly (the majority). If carrying excess baggage full of prezzies for the awaiting friends and relations they are likely to get an exceptionally warm welcome from check-in staff . There is an incentive programme which rewards the most prolific collectors of excess baggage revenue. To Fly to Collect.

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