British Airways workers employed in its cargo division will begin nine days of strikes on Christmas Day, in the dispute over the decision to fire and rehire the workforce on inferior pay and conditions.

Since Unite initially announced the strike dates, talks between British Airways and the union have taken place but have failed to make significant progress.

Over 840 British Airways cargo workers, predominantly based at Heathrow airport, recorded a 98 per cent yes vote in favour of strike action. The very strong yes vote reflects the anger of the workforce to the deep cuts they face to their pay and conditions.

Under BA’s fire and rehire plan workers are losing up to 24 per cent of their pay which amounts to between £5,000 - £11,000 per annum.

Strike action will begin at 00:01hrs on Friday 25 December and will end at 24:00hrs on Saturday 2 January.

As a result of Heathrow being in Tier 4 and the very high levels of Covid-19 in the capital, and despite workers having the right to picket, Unite has chosen not to organise pickets during the initial strike and it will not be organising any physical demonstrations for the same reason.

The nine day strike will cause severe disruption to the company’s ability to bring goods into the UK. The strike will be potentially cause further disruption to the airline as importers have been seeking alternative ways to bring goods into the UK, in an attempt to avoid the chaos and disruption currently occurring at the country’s ports.

The cargo workers are especially aggrieved at their treatment by British Airways as they have continued to operate during two national lockdowns. The cargo division is the only section of British Airways that has retained a consistent revenue stream, throughout the pandemic. The workforce has played a key role in ensuring that vital goods continued to be brought into the UK.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Unite has given British Airways numerous chances to resolve this dispute and it has repeatedly failed to grasp the opportunity.

 “As a result Unite members have no option but to go ahead with the planned strike action.

 “The strike action will cause huge disruption to British Airways’ ability to bring cargo into the UK.

 “Once again the company have decided to resurrect its 'fire and rehire' policies and target a group of employees who have continued to work throughout the pandemic bringing much need supplies to the UK and revenue to BA. 

“Due to the Covid crisis, and the very high levels of infections in London, Unite is not operating picket lines. This is a vital measure to protect the health and welfare of our members and their families.

“Even with strike action starting in two days, there is still time for BA to avoid the disruption it is facing by making an acceptable offer to our members.”

Unite has reached agreement with British Airways in all the other sections of the company where it represents workers, to mitigate its proposals to slash workers’ wages, but has been unable to do so for the cargo workers due to the ongoing intransigence of management.


Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.