Flybe pilots may strike after company ignores pay claim

The BBC reports that up to 700 Flybe pilots may take industrial action after the pay claim they submitted in February 2010 was ignored by their employers. There are also concerns about working conditions and the way that the company schedules its flights.


7th December 2010

BA and Iberia shareholders approve merger. More acquisitions and mergers to come

The long awaited merger of British Airways and Iberia has been approved by the shareholders of the two companies.

Passenger groups have long questioned whether this merger will provide any genuine benefit to the travelling public or merely allow the new super-airline to demand higher ticket prices from the public. The business ethics of a number of airlines, including BA will be in the spotlight after various scandals have come to light in recent times, including conspiring to fix fuel surcharges and cargo rates rather than being genuinely competitive with each other.

Iberia Chairman Antonio Vazquez gave an interview to Bloomberg News in which he confirmed that the new company will seek to add to its portfolio of airlines in the very near future. He said that the number of airlines that were being considered as potential targets had been reduced to 12 and that that this was part of the short term business plan. It is also anticipated that talks will continue with American Airlines with the possibility that the largest airline group in the world could be created with AA, BA and Iberia as the dominant parties.

Union members at BA, Iberia and the airlines that may be swallowed up by the new corporation will be concerned how many jobs may be lost as a result of these mergers. They will also be concerned about new Chief Executive Willie Walsh's past history in honouring collective agreements and dealing honestly and fairly with the trade unions.

Unite has a reciprocal agreement with Spanish transport union CC.OO and will be looking to see that any cost saving measures on either side of the channel fully involve the trade unions.


1st December 2010

Details of latest BA offer to end dispute are released

Details of the latest offer from BA to Unite members in their cabin crew at BASSA have started to be released. Unite has said that it will have to look at the legal implications of the offer before it can make further comment, but it is understood that BA has offered to reinstate flight priviledges for staff who took part in strikes earlier this year to levels before the dispute and to refer a number of cases where disciplinary action was taken to an independant arbitrator if BASSA members accept. However, if members accept this offer then they will have to acknowledge that new starters will be recruited on inferior contract terms and be required to work more flexibly - for example by working on both long haul and short haul flights. It is also believed that reinstatement of the seniority of priviledges will not be immediate, but be placed on hold till 2013 and require "good behaviour" from staff who took part in strikes earlier this year.



22nd October 2010

BA and Unite meet with ACAS and make "substantive progress"

The Guardian newspaper reports that Unite met with BA management on Friday in the prescence of ACAS and the TUC to present new proposals and that "substantive progress" was made. Unite are currently in the process of ballotting members over a new strike in this long running dispute.

Willie Walsh has claimed that if a strike goes ahead that 100% of long haul flights will operate from Heathrow - though the HLC is sceptical about this claim in the light of information from our fellow trade unionists abroad who reported quite a number of BA flights arriving at foreign destinations without any passengers on them during the last dispute.

As the number of Unite activists being disciplined (over 100) or fired (14) since this dispute began has risen, Mr. Walsh's claims that his agenda is not simply the destruction of the unions look to be increasingly implausible. Some people are even beginning to ask if he deliberately provoked this dispute in the middle of a recession because he knew that he would be likely to get a sympathetic response from the public.

The HLC believes that the result of this dispute will affect not only Unite's members in BASSA but trade unionists across Europe. We wish BASSA and their members well.


10th October 2010

BA September Traffic up 1.3% from Last Year

This week, BA has announced that its traffic for September 2010 was up by 1.3% from last year and load factors (how full aircraft are when they fly) were up to 82.4%. Perthaps more importantly there was a 4.3% increase in premium traffic - the first and business class seats that yield a higher price to cost ratio and from which most airlines derive a large proportion of their profit.

9th October 2010

Willie Walsh in line for share bonus "worth £1 million"

The Daily Mirror today announced that despite British Airways making a loss of over £500 million, its outspoken CEO is in line for a massive bonus and share options that - if he chooses to exercise them could make him over £1 million.

This is despite Mr. Walsh taking on at least two extra jobs in the past few months, which would appear to make him effectively a part time employee at BA. Earlier this year Mr. Walsh took over a position as head of a group that lobbies on behalf of the airline industry and last week it was announced that he was to become the head of the London Chamber of Commerce. It would seem that the world of business thoroughly approves of Willie's union busting tactics.

This will probably come as a kick in the teeth to those BA staff who worked for no pay for a month last year and who have had their pay frozen. UK workers seriously need to see Mr. Walsh exposed to the public for what he is - an egotistical bully who would rather run his own company into the ground rather that genuinely negotiate with his recognised trade unions. We watch Unite's High Court action against BA's treatment of its members with interest.

29th September 2010

BA, American Airlines and Iberia sign Joint Transatlantic Venture agreement

It was announced today that BA, Iberia and American Airlines have signed an agreement that will allow the three airlines to manage each others Europe to North America traffic.

BA merger with Iberia moves closer but Qantas "not interested"

Iberia Airlines have just announced that they are satisfied with BA's plan to deal with the £3.7 billion deficit in its pension scheme and that it would not be an obstacle to a merger of the two airlines.

Qantas however have indicated that a similar arrangement between BA and themselves is not in the airline's plans and yesterday its CEO, Alan Joyce said that Qantas could expand through organic growth rather than through mergers.

Conservative Ministers "too busy" to discuss injuries from overweight baggage

At the request of the HLC, local Labour MP Alan Keen wrote to Transport Secretary and MP for Runneymede and Weybridge to ask that he meet with us to discuss reduction in the baggage weights that are believed to be largely responsible for workers in the air transport sector suffering 5 times the national average number of back injuries. Mr. Hammond passed the request on to Theresa Villiers, the Secretary for Aviation.

Sadly Ms. Villiers' response was that she could not meet with us due to "heavy diary committments". This was disappointing, but not especially surprising from a government that seems intent upon taking away the few weak health and safety laws that we have to protect us. The Conservatives seem far more concerned about protecting the profit margins of business than they do about the wellbeing of the workers that allow these corporations to function at all. Our thanks go to Alan Keen for his efforts.

The letter from Theresa Villiers can be read by clicking the link below.


HLC members who have suffered injuries from handling overweight baggage may feel it appropriate to write to Mr. Hammond at hammondp@parliament.uk Ms. Villiers does not make her e-mail public, but you can contact her through her web site at www.theresavilliers.co.uk/email/ 

Dear Jon and Paco

Thank you for your email

Alan has asked me to send his apologies as he is unable to attend the meeting due to a prior engagement.

We have received a response from Theresa Villiers about a possible meeting regarding the Pack-Less Campaign. I have attached the response for your information.

Alan was very disappointed with this response and wondered if you would like to draft any sort of response that he can send to Theresa Villiers.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards

Christie Rawlings
Parliamentary Office Manager
Office of Alan Keen MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

020 7219 2819
07811 155205

Immigration Strike called off

A planned strike by up to 2,300 members of the Immigration Services Union has been called off. Management had sought an injunction to prevent the strike, but it is understood that a new offer has been put to the union, which will now ballot its members.

Immigration Officers' union calls for 48 hour strike

UK Border Agency staff in the Immigration Service Union (ISU) are planning a 48 hour strike over imposed roster changes and revised working practices. The strike is scheduled to take place between midnight and midnight on 21st and 22nd of September 2010.18th September 2010

The UK Border Agency is understood to have contingency plans, but it seems likely that there may be substantial delays at airports, ports and Eurostar unless there is a major breakthrough.

Michael O' Leary wants Ryanair to move upmarket

An article in today's Observer records comments made by Ryanair's outspoken boss Michael O' Leary that he wants the airline to move out of the budget market and that he no longer wants his brand to be seen as "cheap or naff." The HLC remains cautious about accepting Mr. O' Leary's comments at face value, as so many of the things he has said in the past seem to have been nothing more than a way of generating cheap publicity for his business. Paying to use the toilet or flying without a co-pilot are just two of the outrageous ideas that have gained him free news coverage, but would seem highly impractical, illegal or dangerous.

Unite to consult across BA on union busting

10 September 2010

Statement by Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley on British Airways:

“Unite remains committed to finding a settlement to the cabin crew dispute at British Airways, as it has from the beginning. In the course of negotiations we have offered the company everything it wanted and more in terms of cost reductions and changes in working practices.

"The company for its part has always claimed that it wanted to put the interests of passengers first. However, it has continued to prolong the dispute by insisting on collective punishment of cabin crew who took strike action with the removal of staff travel concessions, and through the draconian use of disciplinary procedures to sack and suspend crew members, including many union representatives.

"In recent weeks, these suspensions have escalated, with two reps recently suspended simply for attempting to represent other crew facing disciplinary action. Around 80 crew have now been sacked or suspended, often for the most trivial reasons.

"It is now clear that agreed procedures are being abused for purposes of trying to destroy trade unionism among cabin crew. It was my view from the start that this, not cost reductions, was BA’s real agenda and looking at the company’s recent actions unfortunately I have been proved right.

"This behaviour makes a mockery of commitments Willie Walsh entered into to ensure that disciplinary procedures would not be conducted in this way. It undermines the credibility of all company commitments and is not the action of a management looking to resolve the dispute.

"This is no longer a matter for BA cabin crew alone. If trade unionism is smashed among cabin crew, then we can be sure these methods will be extended to other groups of unionised BA employees. Indeed, broader industrial relations are already being disrupted, for example by the refusal of BA to allow cabin crew representatives to attend meetings relating to BA’s massive pensions problems, an issue we have been working closely with the company to help resolve. How on earth can this be in the interests of the company?

"I am therefore calling an early meeting of representatives of all Unite BA members to set out the facts of what is happening in the company, in particular what I believe, in the absence of any serious proposals from the company to settle the dispute, is a plan to eliminate Unite from a sizeable part of the company and weakening the position of the union in the remainder, and to discuss the need for a coordinated and concerted union response.

"While it remains my hope that an agreement can be reached with the company, BA’s conduct makes it inevitable that we prepare for other outcomes.”

Unite has around 30,000 members at British Airways.

For further information please call Andrew Murray on 07773 764 455 or Pauline Doyle on 07976 832 861

Source - Unite the union web site at -

Over 1 million French protesters support general strike against rise in pension age

The BBC reports that today (7th September) over one million people took part in strikes and protests against plans by the French government to raise the state pension age to 62. At present French citizens recieve a pension at 60 if they have paid the equivalent of 40.5 years of National Insurance contributions. Unite and the HLC have good links with French transport unions such as CGT who are are active in the European Transport Workers Federation. We wish them success in getting the government to get those who caused the recession to pay for it rather than ordinary people who have worked all their lives for a modest wage.

BA is reported to have carried out surveillance of its staff at their homes
The HLC understands that a complaint has been made to police about BA carrying out surveillance of two BASSA members at their homes. The department involved is believed to be BA's "Asset Protection" section, which receives little publicity from the Company and whose activities would appear to flirt with the right to privacy of the Human Rights Act. The BASSA members involved are believed to be among nearly 100 stewards, safety reps and active members who have been subjected to various disciplinary allegations since the current dispute began in late 2008. For those who believe that Willie Walsh cannot stoop any lower in his attempts to destroy Unite, the HLC is not so certain and suspects that if BASSA conducts another strike ballot that Willie will be considering even more dirty tricks.

BA targets acquisition of other airlines
Willie Walsh announced this weekend that he was looking at BA buying other carriers as soon as the Iberia merger has been completed. The Guardian reports that BA have a list of 12 smaller airlines from which BA will choose to expand its portfolio. Top of the list is believed to be Chile's LAN which would provide a number of transfer options in South America from Iberia's transatlantic flights.
Other mergers and acquisitions are also being considered and Cathay Pacific is one of the names that is believed to be in the frame and BA has made no secret of its desire to form a supercarrier by joining up with American Airlines so that it can move into the US internal flights market and provide a wider range of links between Europe and America.

BAA unions accept 2010 pay offer
The joint unions recognised by BAA have accepted a revised offer, which includes an unconditional 2% rise on pay and shift allowances. This follows a pay freeze in 2009 and a management offer which would only have provided 1.5% if staff had agreed to give up their shift pay on any days that they had been sick. Unite had said that this proposal was unacceptable and it was clear that this proposal would have been very dertrimental to any shift working employees with long term medical conditions whilst having a far smaller impact on office based staff.

Airline Industry is back in profit
IATA (the International Air Transport Association) reports that the second quarter of 2010 netted profits of $3.9 billion (£2.5 billion) for the 47 most significant airlines. This compares to a loss of $881 million for the same period last year. However, Unite's members continue to face pay freezes and below inflation pay rises, that will mean a significant drop in their standard of living as government tax rises start to bite.
 One of the key reasons that the Civil Air Transport industry made losses over the recession was that there was a lack of confidence in the business sector that meant that executives were booked in cheaper seats, on cheaper airlines, travelled Eurostar or didn't travel at all. This shift in the type of tickets that are being sold is an encouraging sign that the air transport industry is moving out of recession and that business confidence is on the rise.

On a less encouraging note, it should be recognised that many businesses have increased their profit margins through pay freezes and reducing staff numbers - with the result that ordinary working men and women will, through no fault of their own be paying a large proportion of the costs of this recession.

BALPA talks with Virgin "constructive"

BALPA (the British Airline Pilots Association) reports that "some progress" was made at recent talks with Virgin management. Virgin's pilots have already had their pay frozen and were in dispute with their management over changes, which BALPA say could take away 14 rest days a year. The pilots are claiming that they are entitled to 120 days off a year as well as their annual leave - as their roster requires them to work weekends and bank holidays if allocated to work. The dispute had threatened to escalate into to strike action, but Virgin say that talks were "constructive". BALPA is considering managements proposals and are expected to make a response shortly.

BAA Dispute - Strike called off - unions to recommend improved offer
At @ 21.00 today (16th August 2010) ACAS, BAA and Unite reported that the basis for a settlement had been reached. Brendan Gold from Unite said that the joint trade unions (Unite, Prospect and PCS) were prepared to recommend this settlement to their members and that a ballot should be completed within the next 3 weeks.
It was confirmed that no strikes will be scheduled and that passengers need not worry about their travel plans for the August bank holiday being disrupted. Representatives of the 3 unions should be informed by tomorrow (17th August) of the details of the provisional agreement.

Unite take BMI to court over failure to honour pay deal

Unite is taking high court action on behalf of 3,000 of its members at BMI and its subsidiaries over failure to a pay rise agreed in 2007 as part of a 3 year deal.

Under the terms of the 2007 agreement staff should have received a 4.75 % rise in 2009, but due to the recession it was agreed to defer this rise until March 2010. However, to date there has been no rise and pay has effectively been frozen for 2 years.

23rd September 2010

While in the short term this will operate as a means to compete with multi airline groups such as the Star Alliance, some analysts consider that this is part of a plan to merge the airlines into a single company. Both Iberia and BA would like to access the hub airports used by American in the US and American wants access to the routes served from the hubs in Europe where BA and Iberia are established.

The planned merger of BA and Iberia moved a step closer last week when Iberia chose not to exercise its opt out from the merger that it could have used if BA failed to satisfy them over its arrangements for its deficit in its staff pensions scheme.

However, it seems almost certain that any of these potential mergers will lead to job losses in the aviation industry. There are also questions to be asked as to whether this will actually provide a net benefit to passengers, who may find that their chioce of carriers has become smaller and see a reduction in the competition that might keep ticket prices down

29th September 2010

The HLC does however find it extremely interesting that at the same time as Willie Walsh seems hell bent on turning BA into Ryanair, that O' Leary claims to want to turn his airline into British Airways and become a respected brand rather than just a cheap way to fly. Interesting times.

12th September 2010