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British Airways facing summer of strikes by cabin crew

British Airways facing summer of strikes by cabin crew - Steve Parsons/PA Wire
British Airways facing summer of strikes by cabin crew - Steve Parsons/PA Wire

British Airways is facing a summer of strikes after ground and cabin staff backed industrial action in a dispute over pay.

Unite, which represents 16,000 BA workers, won a 97pc majority in a ballot for potential industrial action after claiming the airline reneged on a pay deal. The union, the UK's second largest, is also balloting 500 check-in staff on strikes that could be staged in July when demand is expected to surge.

It claims BA has restored management pay to pre-pandemic levels but refused to reverse a 10pc pay cut that was imposed on workers during the pandemic.

The prospect of disruption comes after travel chaos over the Whitsun half term when hundreds of flights were cancelled and holidaymakers faced delays and queues that resulted in some missing their flights.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has said there cannot be a repeat after blaming the industry for overbooking flights that they could not deliver and failing to anticipate demand.

Unite claimed thousands of experienced staff had been ­dismissed without being replaced resulting in a shortage of check-in staff, loaders, baggage handlers and cabin crews, all of whom are represented by Unite.

"Two years of job and pay cuts mean that BA customers and staff are unfortunately paying the price through sky-high ticket prices, rock bottom service levels and non-existent morale," it said.

"Staff are simply no longer willing to excuse, or pay the price for, poor management decisions."

The union's ballot of its full membership was consultative, asking if they would support industrial action over a breach of the "good faith" clause in the pay agreement with BA. Some 97.3pc voted in favour.

It is understood the union believed BA breached the agreement by awarding ground handlers a pay rise, on top of the 5pc for all staff, when it had accepted any increase would be paid to all employees.

BA believes the threat of industrial action is based on a misunderstanding, which was rectified as soon as it came to light. The company had thought there was a previous pay increase that ground handlers had missed, made the offer to compensate them, then realised it was an error.

A BA spokesman said: "This isn't a ballot for industrial action, and while not surprising given the issues across the transport sector, it's disappointing.

"After a deeply difficult two years which saw the business lose more than £4bn, we still offered payments to our colleagues for this year. We remain committed to open and honest talks with our trade unions about their concerns."

It came as unions on Monday warned there would be six days of strike action later this month and in July by Ryanair's Spanish cabin staff, which could disrupt UK flights. The industrial action, between June 24 and July 2, is over working conditions and pay, the USO union said.

While Ryanair staff in the UK have not announced a strike, it could affect people flying from Britain to Spanish destinations this summer

Lidia Arasanz, general secretary of the union's Ryanair wing, said: "We have to resume mobilisation so that the reality of our situation is known and Ryanair is forced to abide by basic labour laws."

The strikes, if they go ahead, will coincide with several bouts of industrial action across various industries in the UK, including a mass walkout of RMT workers in what has been dubbed the biggest rail strike in modern times.

Travellers have already been hit by hundreds of cancelled flights in recent weeks, along with lost baggage and delays at airports.

In a statement, Ryanair said it had reached collective agreements covering 90pc of its European workforce, and did not expect "widespread ­disruption". A spokesman said a deal had already been reached with the CCOO, Spain's "most representative" union.