The Unite union yesterday warned that British Airways’ passengers could be put at risk by inexperienced strike-breaking cabin crew.
As BA began its conversion courses for staff who work elsewhere in the airline, Unite said public concern will grow over plans to fast-track strikebreakers as more emerges about the skills crew need to care fully for passengers.
The warning came as one crew member revealed that last week a passenger on a BA long haul flight would have died were it not for the intervention, calm actions and dedicated care of the crew.
One crew member on that flight reported: ‘I’m about to collapse after a 16 and half hour day.
‘We had one of the most serious medical incidents I have ever seen.
‘A lady collapsed in the aisle, full plane. After 30 minutes she fitted and died.
‘We did CPR, defib (no shock advised) PA’d for a Doctor – amazingly a heart surgeon came forward. Stabbed adrenaline into the heart.
‘After around 20 minutes he advised us to stop, “She’s dead” he said.
‘We replied that we have to continue for 30 minutes. Four minutes later we got a pulse!
‘We supported her for an hour, breathing for her until she was passed to medics on the ground and is now in a hospital. As far as I know she is alive, but very seriously ill.
‘Even though the doctor gave up, we didn’t; look at the outcome.
‘Imagine if strikebreakers were there today? I am sure we would have lost a fellow human being.
‘These are the things we and the public should be worried about. It will cost lives.’
Praising the actions of the crew, Len McCluskey, Unite assistant general secretary, said: ‘Cabin crew’s dedication and skill kept a person alive when others had given up hope.
‘BA should have nothing but praise for its loyal and dedicated cabin crew whose first and last instinct is to care for passengers.
‘Instead, BA resorts to intimidating them with macho threats to replace crew with vastly inexperienced volunteers.
‘Not only does this show contempt for the crew, what message does it send to passengers who have paid to be cared for by a premier airline?
‘Airlines are run by teams, but this cynical ploy will destroy industrial relations at the company for years to come and trash this airline’s brand along the way.’
Unite said that at the very minimum, BA cabin crew are trained to: deliver babies; administer CPR; administer Epipen injections to people who go into anaphylactic shock; operate the Defibrilator for people who have suffered cardiac arrest.
They are trained to: Take command of a life raft in a ditching scenario; deploy survival techniques; fire fight; in search techniques when bomb threats are received; in restraint techniques for disruptive passengers; in Pilot incapacitation i.e how to deal with a pilot who becomes unconscious.
Experienced crew have three months training. The union fears that BA’s 21-day training programme for strikebreakers may not result in a confident, professional crew and will not support the team working a successful crew is built upon.
Unite has condemned BA’s increasingly aggressive recruitment operation as an attempt to intimidate cabin crew out of taking industrial action to defend their jobs and conditions.
The ballot for industrial action opens today and will close on February 22.