BA Gatwick strike threat – GMB Stansted workers strike over pay

BA cabin crew on the picket line at Gatwick airport
BA cabin crew on the picket line at Gatwick airport

MORE than 300 senior British Airways cabin crew at Gatwick Airport have been threatened with the sack if they refuse to accept a pay cut of up to £9,000 a year.

The cabin managers have been sent letters warning that unless they agree to accept the lower paid roles as ‘customer service managers’ by 14th September they will be sacked on 31st October. Cabin crew have responded to the threat anonymously on ‘Be Fair BA’, describing the move as an ‘injustice’ and being an attempt to feed the ‘BA greed machine’.

The airline, which is expected to post £1.5 billion profits this year, claimed on Monday: ‘We have been consulting with the cabin crew trade union for 10 months on proposed changes to senior cabin crew roles at Gatwick so that we have an operation which is sustainable, competitive and crucially ensures we will deliver a great service to our customers.’

Unite national officer Oliver Richardson responded: ‘We’ve put forward a number of different options to BA, but instead they are ploughing on with changes which will result in some senior cabin crew at Gatwick receiving a significant pay cut or losing their job. This is unacceptable. Our members play a central role in making BA one of the world’s favourite airlines and feel increasingly betrayed.

‘Holding a gun to senior cabin crew by saying “accept the new role and a pay cut, or be made redundant” is not the way you would expect such a well-respected airline to behave – especially when you consider their published profits. We would urge BA to think again and negotiate meaningfully to find a solution which meets its business needs while addressing the concerns of our senior cabin crew members.’

A consultative ballot held by Unite has already overwhelmingly rejected the BA wage-cutting plans.

Cabin crew will be demanding that their union immediately acts on that ballot and calls national strike action to defeat the wage-cutting union-busting actions of the BA management.

Also on the airports, 30 GMB members who operate the security scanners for checked in luggage at London Stansted Airport will take further strike action on Saturday 12th September 03.45 to 23.59 and on Sunday 13th September 03.45 to 13.00 in a dispute over pay. These members took strike action on Sunday 23 and on Monday 31st August. In addition there is an overtime ban in place.

These members employed by private contractor Mitie voted by 87%, in a turnout of 80%, to strike in support of their claim for a 3% pay rise.

The members have rejected the 1.5% offer from the company. Mitie is refusing to attend talks at ACAS to avert further strike action. Gary Pearce, GMB organiser, said yesterday: ‘GMB remains available for talks with Mitie at anytime and anywhere at a moment’s notice. We remain in contact with ACAS which has been trying to get Mitie to meet them about resolving the dispute. GMB members involved in the dispute remain determined to get a pay rise irrespective of how long it takes Mitie to get to the table and sort this out.’

Elsewhere, a GMB member who works exclusively for Uber as a cab driver in London was paid £5.03 net per hour for 234 hours driving during August calendar month. This is £1.47 per hour below the national minimum wage of £6.50 per hour. For each hour he worked the fees he paid to Uber were £2.65 per hour which equated to 53% of his net pay per hour.

In July the GMB announced that it had instructed Leigh Day to take legal action in the UK on behalf of members driving for Uber on the grounds that Uber is in breach of a legal duty to provide them with basic rights on pay, holidays, health and safety and on raising complaints. The GMB is asking Uber drivers to keep detailed records of income and expenditure so that underpayment of the national minimum wage can be recovered as part of the Tribunal claim that Uber drivers are directed workers and thereby covered by legislation on pay, holidays, health and safety and on raising complaints.

Steve Garelick, secretary of the GMB professional drivers branch, said: ‘In August this GMB cab driver working for Uber kept detailed records of time spent driving and his income and his expenditure. Taking into account his expenditure, this GMB member was paid £5.03 for every hour he worked in August.

‘Fees he paid to Uber were £2.65 for every hour he worked, or 53% of his hourly pay. The hourly pay is below the national minimum wage of £6.50. If TfL keep issuing new licenses and Uber keep expanding – driving down fares, upping commissions – this will only get worse. This fall in drivers’ incomes poses a threat to public safety.

‘This is because as driver incomes fall they have to work more hours to make the same money. Uber don’t control hours and neither do TFL. Drivers fatigue is a huge public safety and occupational risk. GMB plan to recover underpayment on the national minimum wage as part of the Tribunal claim that Uber drivers are directed workers. We want all Uber drivers to keep detailed records so that we can recover the underpayment for them.’

In another dispute, the GMB is seeking urgent talks after The Landscape group announcement that at least 20 redundancies will be made on the Wiltshire contract for grass cutting and street cleansing.

GMB regional organiser Carole Vallelly said on Monday: ‘GMB is to seek urgent talks on this announcement.

‘At least 20 redundancies to be made, but we fear it will be many more. This is out of a workforce of around 110, so is a huge percentage, and we genuinely fear that a decent level of service just cannot be maintained with such a reduced workforce. This follows most of the grounds operatives being transferred across from the huge Balfour Beatty contract which covered not only these elements, but the roadworks for the whole of Wiltshire.  

‘The Landscape Group secured the contract for the grass cutting and street cleansing up until 2020, and  the rest of the contract is to go out to tender. Balfour Beatty and Wiltshire Council agreed to end the contract two years early, following an absolute barrage of complaints from Wiltshire residents over the last two years.

‘The Balfour Beatty contract has been a fiasco from the beginning, and it comes as no surprise to us it is finishing early. These redundancies we believe are due to further cuts made by Wiltshire Council, and this will inevitably have a huge impact on the County’s environment. From members’ perspective this is a very difficult time, as it has been extremely unsettling working under the troubled Balfour Beatty contract, then being moved over to The Landscape Group, and now they face the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not they will still have jobs by Christmas.’

The GMB has also asked law firm Unionline to make an official complaint to the Financial Ombudsman over the conduct of Virgin Money who have repeatedly ignored requests to deal with the account of a member who died five months ago. Virgin Money have ignored letters and phone calls from Unionline, acting as executors of the member’s will, to close the credit card account and confirm receipt of the final balance payment.

The company has been sending letters to the deceased member’s home address adding late fees to the account and warning the member not to use the credit card as it will be blocked. Matt Cordall, head of legal practice at Unionline, said: ‘The member died with no family and, as executors of her will, Unionline has made contact with all companies, including Virgin Money, the member dealt with to cancel accounts, settle debts, etc.

‘While other companies have responded and closed their accounts, Virgin Money have simply failed to deal with this matter. A complaint was made to Virgin Money in June, and they have yet to respond to this. Under their own complaints procedure, it should take eight weeks. We told them in the complaint letter that we would complain to the Financial Ombudsman if they did not respond to the complaint, confirm the account to be closed and the final payment received, and not charge any further late payments.

‘One has to ask whether Virgin Money have considered how distressing it would be if the member had a family, for them to be receiving these distressing letters after repeatedly informing the company. The aim of the FO complaint is to stop other families receiving the same treatment in similar distressing circumstances.’