Q&A: What's the BA dispute about?

BA plane and Unite banner The dispute between BA and some of its staff has been long-running and bitter

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The long-running dispute between British Airways and some of its cabin crew could be close to a resolution after the airline and the Unite union reached a deal on some of the key issues.

What is the latest development?

British Airways and the Unite union have come to an agreement to settle their long-running industrial dispute.

As part of the deal BA has agreed to restore travel concessions to staff who went on strike and to award some lower-paid employees top-up payments.

Why is this important?

Both issues were at the centre of the bitter dispute so to have progress on these two sticking points means a final resolution might be produced in the ongoing saga.

Has anything else been announced?

Yes, as part of the deal, cabin crew would receive a two-year pay rise worth up to 7.5%. This is expected to be dependent on staff meeting productivity targets.

When did the dispute begin?

The dispute started back in October 2009, when BA reduced the number of cabin crew on long-haul flights from 15 to 14 and introduced a two-year pay freeze from 2010.

The Unite union said this would hit passenger services, as well as the earnings and career prospects of cabin crew.

BA's years of industrial turbulence

2009

  • Oct 6: BA announces 1,700 cabin crew job cuts and pay freeze
  • Dec 14: Cabin crew announce 12-day strike after thousands of staff vote by a ratio of 9-1 for action
  • Dec 17: High Court rules strike cannot go ahead after BA wins legal challenge

2010

  • Mar 15: Prime Minister Gordon Brown calls plans for new strikes "deplorable"
  • Mar 20: Start of 3-day strike, with dispute inflamed by BA decision to withdraw perks
  • May 17: BA wins injunction against further 20 days of strikes after peace talks collapse
  • May 20: Unite wins appeal and strikes back on
  • May 21: BA posts annual loss of £531m
  • May 22: Talks to avert strikes end in disarray after demonstrators storm building, and chief executive Willie Walsh escorted away for protection
  • June 25: After more strikes and bitter war of words, BA makes new offer
  • July 20: Cabin crew reject offer by 3,419 votes to 1,686
  • July 31: It emerges that more than 80 cabin crew have been suspended and 13 sacked because of incidents related to the dispute
  • Nov 23: Employee suspended for holding a collection for colleagues facing disciplinary action

2011

  • Jan 21: Cabin crew vote for fresh strikes, but action halted by new legal wrangling
  • Mar 28: Cabin crew vote by a ratio of 8-1 for strikes in new ballot
  • April 14: BA and Unite agree a 28-day extension before any further strike action is called
  • May 11: BBC discloses that dispute is on the verge of resolution following breakthrough in talks

What has been at the heart of the dispute?

When it started it centred on changes to staffing levels, pay and conditions.

However, following walkouts in March last year, BA removed the travel concessions of workers who took part in the industrial action, with some also facing disciplinary action.

Earlier this year, the union said the dispute was now about four issues.

It wanted a restoration of travel perks in full, arbitration through Acas of all cabin crew disciplinary cases related to the dispute, and restoration of pay to those genuinely sick during the dispute.

It also wanted a full discussion about how BA had handled industrial relations within the company.

What travel perks do BA workers get?

BA staff, as well as their family and friends, can buy tickets for 10% of the full fare price.

They all have to travel standby, so they only get to travel if there are empty seats. The longer they have worked for the airline, the higher up the standby list they get.

BA has offered to reinstate the perks of striking staff, but only at the level of new joiners, so they'd be at the back of the standby queue.

BA said that seniority would only be restored on the condition of good behaviour for the next three years.

Why has BA made changes to staffing levels, pay and working conditions?

BA said it had to restructure and permanently reduce its costs.

Over the past few years, air travellers have been switching to low-cost airlines, especially during the recession.

This was particularly true of business travellers who were traditionally BA's core customers.

What happens now?

The agreement is to be put to a ballot of about 10,000 union members over the next month, with a union recommendation for acceptance.

The ballot process will start next week with the result expected by the end of June.

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