British Airways’ (BA) freight services at Heathrow airport are set for ‘continued significant disruption’ following the announcement of further strikes over the airline’s decision to fire and rehire its cargo division’s workforce on inferior pay and conditions. 

Nine days of fresh strike action will begin on Friday 22 January after talks between Unite and BA’s management collapsed due to the determination of the company ‘to opportunistically strip its hardworking and loyal cargo staff of between £6,000 and £8,000 a year’.

The initial round of strikes, which took place over the Christmas holidays, brought the company’s cargo operations at Heathrow airport to a ‘grinding halt’. It is estimated that around 95 per cent of BA cargo loads coming through the airport were disrupted over the festive period. 

More than 840 BA cargo workers, predominantly based at Heathrow airport, recorded a 98 per cent yes vote in favour of strike action late last year.

BA’s cargo division has remained operational and profitable throughout the pandemic thanks to dedicated staff ensuring that vital goods continued to be brought into the UK. 

The union has reached agreement with BA in all the other sections of the company where it represents workers, to mitigate its proposals to slash workers’ wages. 

However, Unite said the airline is refusing to do the same for its cargo division because it is mistakenly ‘counting on these last hard months of the pandemic being enough to force its cargo workers to accept the company’s attacks on their pay and conditions’.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “British Airways is using the pandemic to opportunistically strip its hardworking and loyal cargo staff of between £6,000 and £8,000 a year – cuts that will cause significant financial hardship. 

“Our members’ anger has been heightened by the fact that throughout the coronavirus crisis they have ensured BA’s cargo division remained undisrupted. Thanks to their dedication it is the only part of the company’s operations that has done so. 

“The Christmas strikes brought BA’s Heathrow cargo operations to a grinding halt and these new strikes will cause continued significant disruption. BA is counting on these last hard months of the pandemic being enough to force its cargo workers to accept the company’s attacks on their pay and conditions.

“But the airline is woefully mistaken in its belief that its cargo workers are an easy target. It is a mistake they will continue to learn to the detriment of their bottom line. Our members will fight these changes until BA comes back with an acceptable offer.” 

ENDS

Notes to editors: 

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.

Unite BA cargo members will take place in discontinuous strike action on the following dates: 

  • 02:00 hours on 22 January 2021, concluding at 10:00 hours on 22 January 2021

  • 10:00 hours on 23 January 2021, concluding at 18:00 hours on 23 January 2021

  • 18:00 hours on 24 January 2021, concluding at 02:00 hours on 25 January 2021

  • 02:00 hours on 29 January 2021, concluding at 10:00 hours on 29 January 2021

  • 10:00 hours on 30January 2021, concluding at 18:00 hours on 30 January 2021

  • 18:00 hours on 31 January 2021, concluding at 02:00 hours on 1 February 2021

  • 02:00 hours on 5 February 2021, concluding at 10:00 hours on 5 February 2021

  • 10:00 hours on 6 February 2021, concluding at 18:00 hours on 6 February 2021

  • 18:00 hours on 7 February 2021, concluding at 02:00 hours on 8 February 2021 

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

For media enquires ONLY contact Unite communications officer Ryan Fletcher on 07849 090215.

Email: ryan.fletcher@unitetheunion.org

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