Over 1,000 Thomas Cook airlines cabin crew began voting in a ballot for industrial action today (Friday 6 May) in a dispute over health and safety concerns and ‘dangerous’ changes to rest breaks which sees cabin crew allowed just a 20 minute break during an 11 hour 59 minute duty period.
The strike vote involving members of Britain’s largest union, Unite follows mounting concerns that cabin crew are being ‘pushed to the limit’ in a bid to maximise profits which is, in turn, putting passenger safety at risk.
Cabin crew, whose primary duty on board an aircraft is passenger safety, have voiced increasing alarm about the impact of fatigue on inflight safety following Thomas Cook’s insistence that they work for up to 12 hours with only a 20 minute break. Before management’s imposition of the changes, cabin crew were entitled to a 20 minute break every six hours.
A member of cabin crew will typically work 10 to 15 hour shifts and up to 60 hours a week. Shifts include pre-flight preparations, safety and security checks, boarding, inflight service of headsets, drinks, food, duty free sales and other promotions, such as scratch cards. On short-haul flights this process is repeated for in-bound flights after a turnaround of usually less than one hour which includes restocking and preparing the aircraft while under extreme time pressures.
Thomas Cook has also now introduced an ‘Airshoppen’ service for passengers. This additional service allows passengers to pre-order duty free online and have it delivered to them in their seats. It involves cabin crew sorting and bagging orders prior to take off and collecting payment from customers inflight. On flights the service is taking up to two hours to deliver.
The ballot of cabin crew, working on flights to major tourist destinations from 10 airports across the UK, closes on Wednesday 25 May and could lead to industrial action taking place during the forthcoming half term school holidays.
Commenting Unite national officer Oliver Richardson said: “Our members are deeply concerned about the impact these changes to rest breaks are having on inflight safety. Fatigue is a major contributory factor to accidents and slower response times when there is an incident.
“The primary purpose of cabin crew is the safety of passengers, but instead Thomas Cook seems intent on working them to the bone to extract as much money as possible out of passengers at the expense of safety.
“Our members at Thomas Cook pride themselves on the service they give to passengers and want to ensure they deliver a safe and efficient world class service with a smile. However that is becoming impossible after management’s dangerous dictat that they are only allowed one 20 minute rest break during a shift of up to 11 hours 59 minutes.
“The airline’s repeated refusal to agree to talks and reach a sensible negotiated solution is only inflaming matters. Thomas Cook needs to drop its high handed approach, listen to cabin crew and start to negotiate meaningfully with Unite. Otherwise, its work until you drop, no matter what the cost, ethos will harm passenger safety and customer service.”
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.