British Airways workers are to be awarded a 13.1% pay rise and one-off £1,000 payment to be paid over an 18 month period.
Members of Unite have voted overwhelmingly to accept the offer which the union called “significant” and said was a reversal of cuts to pay made during the Covid pandemic.
Pilots and managers are excluded from the deal but 24,000 BA staff will get the rise and one-off bonus payment. The airline’s parent company – International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) announced record profits for the first six months of 2023 of £1.1 billion – with revenue up 45% to £11.7 billion.
In the same period of 2022 IAG recorded a £383 million loss – the turnaround evidencing the revival of the travel industry after the lifting of pandemic restrictions. However, the return of travel has seen airlines and airports struggle to replace staff laid off during Covid and fill the vacancies, especially in security given the need for time consuming background checks on new recruits.
Unite said the 13.1% pay rise – which has the potential to rise further if inflation does not fall – restores staff salaries after British Airways’ controversially adopted a “fire and rehire” policy in 2020. That saw airline staff offered an enhanced redundancy or the option to apply for the same job at lower pay – leading to a industrial action and strikes – as BA laid off 10,000 workers.
Unite said the deal with British Airways also includes “milestone reviews” and further pay increases for specific workers at the airline. The deal also means BA engineers will have ‘stolen’ holiday days returned to them, thereby averting a planned strike by the 2,000 British Airways engineers which maintain the 280 fleet of aircraft at sites around the country.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the “sizable pay increase” was won “by the hard work and dedication” of union reps and officers “hammered out” in detailed negotiations”.
“The fact that Unite has reversed the fire and rehire cuts while also securing a large increase in pay, underlines how the union’s relentless focus on the jobs, pay and conditions of members, is delivering for workers financially,” said Graham.
Inflation in the UK reached its highest level in 41 years when it hit 11.1% last year. In June the consumer price index showed the UK’s inflation rate has fallen to 7.9% – which is still the highest of any major economy. One of prime minister Rishi Sunak’s five key pledges is halving inflation to 5.5% by the end of 2023. The Bank of England’s target is 2%.
Inflation in the travel sector has seen airline fares shoot up 9.5% compared to 2022 while fuel prices rose by 5.7%.
News of the British Airways pay deal comes as a planned strike at Gatwick airport – planned for August 4-8 by ground handlers – was called off. Airports and airlines have been hit by a number strikes, causing chaos with the cancellation of thousands of flights.