Labor leaders are warning that flight attendants are preparing for a walkout involving British Airways flights at the U.K’s second busiest airport. Union officials say that the airline’s repeated violations of agreed upon work rules and refusal to set scheduling protocols may have left cabin crew members with no choice but to proceed with the disruptive labor action.
At the request of company officials, the labor union that represents British Airways cabin crew members based at Gatwick Airport paused a campaign urging passengers to book flights on competing carriers rather than risk being delayed by a potential strike. The Gatwick Union (TGU) officials say they have agreed to suspend the public relations campaign, at the airline’s request, “to provide an opportunity to focus on resolving our issues.” Passengers, however, are taking heed and many flyers are already making a point to avoid booking British Airways flights at the airport for the foreseeable future.
“If the company pushes ahead, all BA Gatwick flights could be affected,” the union said in an online video designed to put pressure on the carrier. “The only way for customers to guarantee their journeys won’t be disrupted is to book on a different airline until the dispute is settled.”
Although it has agreed to suspend its campaign, union officials have indicated that a labor action is becoming increasingly more likely. Labor leaders say that a “consultative ballot” has shown that rank-and-file members are overwhelmingly in favor of a walkout should the impasse continue.
“Clearly, as a reasonable and responsible trade union branch we have agreed that Unite may pause the campaign temporarily to allow for constructive talks and give BA the opportunity to resolve our issues without distraction,” TGU said in a May 30 statement. “However, should these efforts fail and we are unable to find resolution through talks the campaign will be restarted, immediately. We will then request members to reach out to their friends and family and ask them to support them by sharing the campaign material on their behalf, ensuring maximum reach and exposure.”
According to the labor group, crew scheduling rules, rest periods following long-haul flights, attempts to lower take-home-pay by ending onboard duty-free sales and signing new hires to more restrictive contracts all remain sticking points. The union says Gatwick-based flight attendants have a long history of agreeing to wage concessions and other cost-saving measures, but this time, cabin crews are inclined to draw a line in the sand considering British Airways is reporting near-record profits of more than $2 billion.
Frequent flyers aren’t convinced that the labor dispute will be resolved without passengers enduring a large portion of the pain. In the FlyerTalk forums, both passengers inclined to support the workers and passengers firmly behind British Airways management appear to agree on at least one thing: that it might not be a bad idea to avoid British Airways Gatwick flights this summer.
Are the dire warnings about delayed and canceled flights just saber rattling by labor leaders or should British Airways passengers be prepared for a nightmare at the U.K’s second-largest airport? The conversation (and a few helpful alternatives) can be found here.
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