BRITISH Airways’ (BA) freight services at Heathrow airport are set for nine days of fresh strike action which will begin on Friday 22 January after talks between Unite and BA’s management collapsed.
Unite said yesterday that this was due to the determination of the company ‘to opportunistically strip its hardworking and loyal cargo staff of between £6,000 and £8,000 a year.’
The initial round of strikes, which took place over the Christmas holidays, brought the company’s cargo operations at Heathrow airport to a ‘grinding halt’. It is estimated that around 95 per cent of BA cargo loads coming through the airport were disrupted over the festive period.
More than 840 BA cargo workers, predominantly based at Heathrow airport, recorded a 98 per cent yes vote in favour of strike action late last year.
BA’s cargo division has remained operational and profitable throughout the pandemic thanks to dedicated staff ensuring that vital goods continued to be brought into the UK.
The union has reached agreement with BA in all the other sections of the company where it represents workers, to mitigate its proposals to slash workers’ wages.
However, Unite said the airline is refusing to do the same for its cargo division because it is mistakenly ‘counting on these last hard months of the pandemic being enough to force its cargo workers to accept the company’s attacks on their pay and conditions.’
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: ‘British Airways is using the pandemic to opportunistically strip its hardworking and loyal cargo staff of between £6,000 and £8,000 a year – cuts that will cause significant financial hardship.
‘Our members’ anger has been heightened by the fact that throughout the coronavirus crisis they have ensured BA’s cargo division remained undisrupted. Thanks to their dedication it is the only part of the company’s operations that has done so.
‘The Christmas strikes brought BA’s Heathrow cargo operations to a grinding halt and these new strikes will cause continued significant disruption. BA is counting on these last hard months of the pandemic being enough to force its cargo workers to accept the company’s attacks on their pay and conditions.
‘But the airline is woefully mistaken in its belief that its cargo workers are an easy target. It is a mistake they will continue to learn to the detriment of their bottom line.
‘Our members will fight these changes until BA comes back with an acceptable offer.’