Heathrow BA strike suspended after new pay offer

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People waiting in airportImage source, Getty Images

Strike action by about 700 British Airways check-in staff at Heathrow has been suspended after unions said the airline had made a "vastly improved" pay offer.

The Unite union said an agreement was reached after "extensive" talks.

Both Unite and GMB union members will now be balloted on the new pay deal.

"We welcome that BA has finally listened to the voice of its check-in staff," said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, added: "All our members were asking for was what they were owed. British Airways finally moving on pay is long overdue.

"All our members - who are predominantly low-paid women - wanted was to be given back the pay cuts BA imposed on them during the pandemic, threatening them with fire and rehire if they said no."

BA said it was "very pleased" the unions had decided not to issue dates for industrial action.

"This is great news for our customers and our people," a statement said.

Last month, workers, who are mostly check-in staff, voted to go on strike over pay, with unions saying the action was due to a 10% pay cut imposed during the peak of the pandemic not being reinstated.

If the strikes had gone ahead, BA, which operates from terminals three and five at Heathrow, had plans to cover staff, including managers potentially dealing with check-ins.

However, there would still have been disruption for passengers, especially at terminal five, leading to cancellations.

The airline had originally offered a 10% temporary bonus for staff instead of a reversal of the pay cut.

It is understood that offer, which was rejected by the unions representing check-in staff, has been accepted by other parts of British Airways' (BA) business, including by ground operations, engineering and cabin crew workers.

In a year of chaos, there are signs that British Airways really wants to avoid further disruption.

Ground staff at Heathrow want their pay restored to the level it was at before the pandemic.

It looks as though the threat of strikes over the summer has proved fruitful.

BA's offer to compromise could have repercussions throughout the company.

That is because, with the cost of living rising fast, workers in other parts of the business are already turning their attention to future pay deals.

In the past, BA has often been willing to play hardball with its staff, risking strikes to keep costs down.

But if that is no longer the case, employees might feel empowered to raise their demands.

Tens of thousands of passengers have been hit by airport disruption and flight cancellations in recent weeks.

Hundreds of flights across the UK were cancelled during the week of the Platinum Jubilee and school half-term holidays, and concerns have been raised of further travel woes during the summer.

The disruption has been caused by factors including staff shortages that have left the aviation industry struggling to cope with resurgent demand for overseas travel.

On Wednesday, BA announced it was cutting 10,300 more short-haul flights due to feature in its schedule between August and the end of October.

Nearly 30,000 flights have been removed from BA's schedule between April and October this year.