British Airways avoided a damaging summer strike after agreeing a “significantly improved” pay deal, unions say, a boost for the airline which has been forced to cancel thousands of flights this year.
The Unite union said on Thursday that a dispute over check-in staff at London Heathrow Airport “has been put on hold” after the company made a new pay offer. Staff will instead be voted on the watered down pay deal.
“We are pleased that BA has finally listened to the voice of its check-in staff. Unite has repeatedly warned that wage disputes at BA are inevitable unless the company takes our members’ legitimate grievances seriously,” said Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham.
The GMB union, whose members were also due to strike, has reached an agreement with BA, according to a union official.
About 700 members of BA’s recording team at Heathrow had voted to strike last month, with unions promising “severe disruptions” timed to coincide with the summer overseas rush.
Unite said BA’s salary offer had been “significantly improved” without disclosing further details. The union had demanded wages be restored to pre-pandemic levels, following a 10% cut imposed by BA as the industry was virtually shut down by Covid-19 travel restrictions.
The airline said it was “very pleased” with the result, which came a day after announcing plans to cut 10,300 more flights this summer due to staff shortages, bringing the total number of cancellations this year around 30,000.
BA was under extreme pressure to avoid a strike that could have thrown its operations into chaos on one of the busiest weekends of the year for travel, as schools closed for the summer.
But many other employers also recognize that they will have to make concessions on wages to avoid bitter industrial disputes, especially in a tight labor market where recruitment is difficult.
Unite said separately on Thursday that it had secured an additional 4% pay rise for more than 17,000 of NatWest Bank’s lowest-paid employees, which would be consolidated into base pay, not a one-off lump sum.
He recently struck a deal for a similar top-up to salaries at Barclays and a £1,000 bonus for Lloyds Banking Group staff.
Meanwhile, a Bank of England survey released on Thursday showed two-thirds of employers found it ‘significantly more difficult’ than normal to hire new staff, with average wage growth expected to remain higher to 5% over the next 12 months – a level policymakers think is unsustainable.
Separately, a survey published on Friday by the Confederation of Recruitment and Employment, the trade body for UK recruitment companies, showed that employers continued to report a growing availability of candidates and steep pay rises from departure, even if the frenetic pace of hiring had slowed down a bit.
While private sector employers are showing flexibility, the current political unrest could make simmering wage disputes in the public and parapublic sector more intractable.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT railway workers‘ union, said Boris Johnson’s resignation raised fears of ‘months of chaos in government which could seriously undermine the prospect of a settlement of the national rail dispute’.
2,000 members of Govia Thameslink Railway’s RMT voted to join industry-wide strikes on Thursday, meaning the rail operator is the 14th to face industrial action in a dispute over wages, conditions and job security.
Nadhim Zahawi, the new chancellor, has given no firm signal as to whether he might be prepared to fund more generous wage deals for public sector workers than the 2-3% offer currently priced in departmental funding plans.