The dispute between British Airways check-in staff and ground-handling agents at London Heathrow Airport threatened a walk-out during a crucial time for aviation – the summer holidays. However, such plans have been suspended after British Airways made a “vastly improved” offer. 

Problem solved, tensions eased

Two weeks ago, members of the GMB and Unite unions overwhelmingly supported progressing towards industrial action due to the dispute over pay with British Airways. If the walk-out went ahead, over 700 British Airways check-in staff and ground-handing agents would have walked out at the peak of the summer travel season.

The unions were harsh with their comments towards BA, stating that they were issues “entirely” of its own making and depicted the eventual escalation to industrial action as a matter of “grim predictability” thanks to “the pig-headedness of British Airways.”

However, this Wednesday saw all involved parties meet for a day of talks, during which a deal was agreed with the Unite union, which represents many of the workers involved. According to sources, the deal met the demands put forward by the union on behalf of BA staff by reversing the 10% pay cut introduced during the pandemic.  

Workers were offered a one-off 10% bonus but this was rejected.

The offer will now be put to a ballot of Unite members, however, both parties are hopeful that these latest developments mark the beginning of the end of this dispute. 

British Airways aircraft
In April, British Airways had to open a new crew base in Madrid in an attempt to tackle the delays and cancellations caused by staff shortages. | © Simon Dawson / Reuters

A spokesperson for British Airways commented on these latest developments:

“We are very pleased that, following collaboration with the unions, they have decided not to issue dates for industrial action. This is great news for our customers and our people.”

Unite General Secretary, Sharon Graham, added:

“We welcome that BA has finally listened to the voice of its check-in staff. Unite has repeatedly warned that pay disputes at BA were inevitable unless the company took our members’ legitimate grievances seriously.” 

But with one fire seemingly put out, another ignites. 

At the time of publishing, a 720-hour strike over pay by one of the refuelling firms at London Heathrow is still to go ahead at the start of the school summer holidays, threatening further disruption during an already disruptive time within the aviation industry. 

This Wednesday, the British flag carrier announced that it would be cancelling another 10,300 flights this summer. 

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