British Airways is facing significant disruption in its cargo handling business in the run up to Christmas as members of Unite, the UK’s principal aviation union, prepare to ballot for industrial action.

Controversial plans 

The dispute is a result of British Airways’ highly controversial plans to fire and rehire its entire workforce on vastly reduced pay.

While Unite has finally been able to secure agreements to mitigate the company’s plans for most of its workers, this has currently proved impossible in the case of the cargo workers based at Heathrow Airport, where Unite has in excess of 850 members.

Huge pay cuts

The workforce has been forced to sign new contracts resulting in pay cuts of between 20-25 per cent.

To make a difficult situation worse, British Airways is also threatening to outsource the workforce and appoint a sub-contractor to operate this part of the business.

British Airways is also trying to renegotiate and weaken the collective bargaining agreement with Unite.

Balloting to begin

Members will begin to be balloted on Thursday 19 November and the ballot will close on Monday 7 December. If members vote for industrial action, strikes could begin shortly before Christmas.

Ironically, while the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the number of airline passengers being dramatically reduced, cargo services have remained very healthy and are a vital revenue stream for the company at the present time.

The workforce have continued to operate throughout the current lockdown and played a crucial role during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, helping to bring vitally needed PPE into the country.

Workers mistreated

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “British Airways are once again treating its workers with contempt.

 “Cargo workers have worked throughout the pandemic and have continuing to provide a highly profitable revenue stream for British Airways and all the thanks they have received is a huge pay cut.

 “Workers are faced with the double whammy of operating in incredibly challenging conditions due to Covid-19 while worrying about how they will provide for their families, especially with Christmas fast approaching.

 “Unite remains committed to resolving this dispute via negotiations and will engage in talks at ACAS. However BA needs to drop the threats of outsourcing and imposition of new contracts under the threat of ‘fire and rehire’ and be prepared to reach agreement on a fair deal for our members if they are to avoid industrial action.”


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.