THE FIGHT to defend the jobs, pay and conditions of the 70,000 workers employed at Heathrow Airport has now reached its decisive hour.
On 5th August British Airways sacked its 42,000 employees, notifying them that some may be allowed to return to work if they sign new contracts by 31st August cutting pay and conditions by 20%-50%.
BA workers have now begun receiving 8am emails, notifying them that they are being made compulsorily redundant, with redundancy payments in the very low thousands of pounds.
Meanwhile, a quarter of the 2,400 Menzies ground staff at Heathrow face the sack, with those that remain taking £10,000-plus pay cuts.
The 1,200 Alpha catering workers have been informed that their jobs are to be cut from 40 hours a week down to 20, or even 16.
There are half a dozen other catering firms at Heathrow, and Unite says that of the 4,500-strong catering workforce at Heathrow, 3,000 are facing the sack.
Heathrow Airport Limited, which runs the airport, is sacking thousands of staff and massively cutting the pay of those that remain, as are many other Heathrow airlines and companies, such as Virgin, DHL and Rolls Royce.
However, instead of mobilising the full strength of the biggest union in the land to defend all aviation jobs, pay and conditions, the Unite leadership is on its knees to the bosses.
The Unite bureaucracy’s slavishness reached a new level last week when they launched an ‘Ask Rishi to save UK aviation. Sign now’ on-line petition, urging members to send Tory Chancellor Sunak a ‘wish you were here’ postcard.
Complying with the wishes of the bosses, Unite and the GMB have now announced that they are recommending massive pay and conditions cuts to their members employed on BA’s ‘A Scales Agreement’.
This onslaught on their members’ pay and working conditions includes the introduction of variable shift lengths, 11% pay cuts now, with 10% more cut next April and the already-agreed pay rise for April 2021 scrapped.
The unions recommend acceptance of BA’s imposition of five weeks unpaid leave and no pay rise in January 2023.
- The company wants to change the way we are currently rostered with the Introduction of variable shifts lengths with shifts being allocated closer to the day of operation, seasonal rosters and relief shifts to provide more efficient coverage over busier periods.
- 30-minute stay on and early finish will be permitted for all colleagues on shifts that are up to and including 9 hours.
- In order to mitigate compulsory redundancies all colleagues in Heathrow will agree to take an equal percentage reduction in hours and pay of 11%. Should business improve colleagues will be able to increase their hours to their original contracted hours as of the 31 August 2020.
- During winter 2020/2021 all colleagues will take unpaid leave to equate to approximately 5 weeks per person.
- All “A Scales” staff will have their pay reduced permanently by 10% (basic and shift) from 1 April 2021, in addition to the reduction in hours and pay above.
- HCS 2012 CSE who move to CER will have their salary reduced to CER rate on 1 April 2021.
- There will be no basic or shift pay increases or increments for January 2023.
- New pay spot rate without increments effective January 2023 aligned to market rates and collectively bargained.
- The previously collectively agreed pay deal due to be implemented on 1 April 2021 to be permanently removed.
- Shift pay for “A Scales” will remain consolidated on their new reduced rates set out above but will reflect actual shifts worked in previous six months through delivery of variable shift lengths and flexible rostering. These will be reviewed every 6 months.
- All colleagues in both “A Scales” and HCS 2012 will move into the new Customer Experience Representative (CER) role …
‘There is a shortfall of £4m per-annum (during 2021 and 2022) on employee cost benefit. The trade union representatives and Heathrow management team will continue to consult on closing this gap, no later than 30 September 2020.
‘Memorandum of Understanding will be produced.
‘Movement from EG Policies to OCG policies (Our colleague Guide) will be consulted at a corporate level.
‘Section 188/s will remain in place until full implementation of any agreed changes and any necessary further consultation.
‘Details of how Heathrow’s Talent Pool will operate will be communicated by 31 August 2020.
‘Both Unite & GMB recommend acceptance, alternative is Compulsory Redundancy, Fire & Rehire.’
Meanwhile, Unite’s BA Ground Staff National Shop Stewards Panel (GSS NSP) accuse BA management of stabbing them in the back late on Monday night.
Bemoaning the fact that BA didn’t offer them the same job-cutting and pay-cutting deal that it offered to the BALPA pilots, the NSP complains in addition that each time they give way the the BA bosses come back for more.
The BA GSS (Ground Staff) Newsletter Tuesday 11 August is headlined: ‘On being stabbed in the back on a Monday night …
‘After a lengthy adjournment late on Monday night the GSS NSP were issued with an ultimatum from the company.
‘We were given a letter of intent with changes that we had not previously seen, agreed or even discussed.
‘These changes had dramatic financial and contractual implications for our members and it was felt that under these conditions we could not accept this letter.
‘Add to this the fact it was given to us so late by the company – like a double glazing salesman, sign now as it’s a one time offer – and the fact they had completely changed the agreement we were in discussions on, meant it was simply not possible to sign.
‘Also we had been clear from the beginning our terms and conditions were not part of the deal, which they said they accepted.
‘Up to this point we had met all the financial cost savings and business efficiencies that was required of us by the company, it is disappointing the company then changed its position at the last moment, but this was sadly not unexpected.
‘Why, because other areas were selling their terms and conditions, with up to 45% losses on their current terms, which we were not willing to do.
‘These included lay off clauses, sit at home with no pay, short time working, seasonal hours which is the same as a zero hour contract.
‘These items are not in our national agreement, and there were other items in there that were just as unpalatable like removing all of our contractual agreements, like sickness, drug and alcohol testing, so you would have no rights. We would be put on the new OCG contract, or another new contract.
‘So in theory we would have been moving into the new contracts by agreement and not by “fire and rehire,” which we can challenge in court, as constructive dismissal, and challenge industrially through strike action.
‘So is it that they did not really want a deal, or did they plan this from the beginning?
‘They were happy to look after the pilots, but they are all highly paid, so we have to fight for what we have.
‘The savings were there, if it was ever about costs, we reached the targets they gave us, they know that.
‘It seems strange that they are willing to offer a deal to the pilots that had industrial action a short while ago, but they are refusing to offer the same deal to us, so maybe that’s what it takes for them to listen.
‘There is similar proposal for cargo, to put all GSS on new contracts, and they also wish to split cargo and the ramp.
‘It’s now time to fight as they have decided this is what they are going do, we must do the same, please do not agree any new job they offer, until clear advice is provided by Unite.
‘We agreed the futures agreement to protect all new staff coming into the GSS, current staff took some pain to reach this agreement, now all staff have the same terms and conditions, because of that, so we all have the same, shifts pay, holidays, overtime rates.
‘There is a plan to remove these terms and conditions by getting you to sign a new contract, don’t do it.
‘But now they have made some of our members redundant, shame on BA, we had a chance to maybe save some jobs, but they did not care, we will of course support them in any way we can.
‘So don’t engage, if we don’t do something now, you will surely lose everything.
‘We are talking to Unite about the next steps, and will keep you updated, and we will continue to fight for every job and every term and condition.
‘This is not over by a long way.
‘Unite GSS NSP.’
In a letter to BA members dated 6th August, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey accused BA management of ‘Industrial sabotage by bullying a proud and loyal workforce into submission.’
He went: ‘It is for this reason that I have today instructed my teams to make preparations for industrial action.’
Since then, not a whisper from McCluskey. Meanwhile, BA is gaining confidence to slash and burn and all the other companies on Heathrow are following the BA lead.
Now is the time for Unite and GMB branches to force their leadership to call the airport out on indefinite strike. Those leaders who refuse must be sacked and replaced by those that will.
Heathrow must be occupied and all jobs, terms and conditions saved and a national strike called.