British Airways management lashes out.

In a sign that BA management is digging in for a sustained battle with unions it announced today that it is formally withdrawing discounted travel for staff who have taken strike action.  The move has been roundly condemned by Unite, the union representing cabin crew.

BA has defended its decision on the grounds that discounted travel is not part of cabin crew’s contract and is a perk given by the company out of sheer benevolence. This feeds into general management spin that cabin crew are privileged. Once again the reality is somewhat different.

A number of years ago BA took the decision to widen its recruitment pool to include more people from outside Britain. The idea behind this was to widen the language base of cabin crew in order to provide a better service for BA’s diverse international clients. What could be more convenient for a person whose first language is not English to be able to converse in their own language after a long and tiring business trip? Bear in mind that multi-lingual skills are often difficult to access in the UK labour market. There is also the fact that BA has closed its regional bases meaning cabin crew must travel to Heathrow to get to work. From the point of view of a BA worker based abroad working for BA only makes economic sense if the travel discount is provided. In reality the discount is part of their wage; in the same way paying into a pension fund is simply deferred wages. Taken together the travel discount is actually more similar to an investment in recruitment of multi-lingual staff rather than a benevolent perk. It now seems Willie Walsh is so hell-bent on defeating cabin crew that he is prepared to sacrifice the level of service provided to customers which is one of the key assets of the company.

This move demonstrates a number of things. Firstly that management has very little interest in opening negotiations with the cabin crew unions and instead is bent on a course of confrontation. This makes further strike action inevitable. However despite the hard man facade being put up there is also increasing signs of desperation coming from Waterside. For example Unite have responded to an incredible rant from BA complaining that the press are not taking their figures on flight cancellations as gospel truth and objecting to the union point of view being aired!

Secondly the slash and burn strategy of Willie Walsh towards terms and conditions of staff is ultimately self defeating and damaging to the company as well as to the staff.

The Guardian Online has published an online poll asking people ‘Is BA right to withdraw staff’s travel discounts after the strike‘. We would urge our readers to show their disapproval of this latest bully boy tactic of Mr. Walsh by voting a resounding no.

Finally here are three interesting articles two written from the perspective of cabin crew and one in support of them.

This first article from the Guardian Online is a diary of the dispute from an anonymous picketer.

This second article is the views of a former member of cabin crew on the causes of the current dispute.

This article is a letter into today’s Guardian from 95 leading industrial relations academics condemning Walsh’s macho management.



  1. This site is brilliantly informative. thanks.

    And Air strike is a great name too.

  2. Thanks James. Tell all your friends about us. 🙂

  3. […] Air strike has explained here and here the staff discount actually benifits BA and is essential to staff who live abroad. […]

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