Unite ends BA ‘fire and rehire’ dispute by securing deal to avoid forthcoming cargo strike action

January 27, 2021

Unite, the UK’s principal aviation union, has secured a deal (subject to a members’ ballot) to end the long running dispute over British Airways’ plans to fire and rehire the workforce in its cargo division.

Strike action taken

Members of Unite employed at BA Cargo, the majority of whom work at Heathrow Airport, undertook nine days of strike action over the Christmas/New Year period which caused overwhelming disruption to the company’s cargo services.

Unite had proposed a total of a further nine days of strike action beginning on Friday 22 January but the first three days were called off at the last minute, after progress was made at the negotiations. The next round of strikes due to begin this weekend have also been called off.
Key points of deal

The key points of the deal agreed between Unite and British Airways are as follows:

  • End of fire and rehire (the last area of BA where this was a threat)
  • Workers will revert to previous contractual provisions subject to agreed changes
  • No compulsory redundancies
  • Improved pay protection for staff whose pay sits above the new agreed rates (up to 95 per cent of present pay rates)
  • An increase in pay for a significant proportion of staff
  • Members who did not sign the new contract and were dismissed will be offered their jobs back on the agreed terms.

The logjam in the negotiations was broken last week, when British Airways’ new chief executive officer Sean Doyle became directly involved.

Tremendous result

Unite assistant general secretary, Howard Beckett, said: “This is a tremendous result and finally ends the threat of workers in BA Cargo being fired and rehired at British Airways.

“Huge credit must go to our members in BA Cargo, who firstly overwhelmingly voted for strike action and then delivered on that commitment by undertaking nine days of solid strike action, in the teeth of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Without our members’ commitment and sacrifice there is no doubt it would have been impossible to get BA to reverse its fire and rehire plans.

“Unite recognises the personal involvement of Sean Doyle, the new CEO of BA, as significant in achieving a negotiated settlement that our reps now feel able to recommend to our members.

“Fire and rehire is proving to be the present day go to weapon of the worst type of employers. Workers up and down our nations in many instances are being forced to pay for the Covid crisis with reduced terms and conditions.

“Unite is proud to have reversed this practice in BA and will continue to fight fire and rehire wherever it raises its ugly head.

“It is workers who will rebuild our industrial sectors post-Covid and they can only do so if their terms and conditions reflect the work they have undertaken over many years to build the profit of companies such as BA.”

Members’ ballot

Unite’s members at BA Cargo will now be balloted on the deal, however it is anticipated that it will be accepted.

The level of anger among Unite’s members in BA Cargo about the company’s fire and rehire proposals, was underlined by the fact that they recorded a 98 per cent yes vote in favour of strike action.

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