BA staff vote to strike over key period

/ Source: Financial Times

Passengers using British Airways could face chaos over the busy August bank holiday weekend after check-in staff represented by the GMB union voted to carry out a 24-hour strike unless a row over pay is settled.

British Airways check-in and customers services staff said on Monday they would strike for 24 hours on either August 27,28, 29 and 30, one of the busiest times of years for holiday travelers.

GMB said, however, it had a new proposal which it was planning to present to BA.

The GMB does not represent all of the check-in and customers services staff but even a small strike could cause a huge amount of disruption.

The 8,000 members of the Transport and General Workers' Union will vote on Wednesday this week. Between them the T&G and GMB represent most of BA's 3,000 check-in staff, as well as many workers in areas such as baggage handling and back-office processing.

The GMB's vote will increase pressure on BA, which last week warned that its fuel bill could jump by £225 million to more than £1.1 billion this year as a result of the surging oil price. Even the threat of strike action can have a profound impact on an airline's financial performance as travelers are more likely to book with a competitor than risk being stranded.

However, a No vote by T&G members would make it hard for the GMB to go it alone with strike action, particularly since Amicus, the third union involved in the pay talks, has tentatively supported BA's offer of non-binding arbitration.

A strike by all 8,000 T&G members, especially if coordinated with the GMB, would be disastrous for the airline. Wildcat strike action by check-in and sales staff at Heathrow last summer caused severe disruption.