has opened an investigation into the circumstances of the unofficial industrial action taken by about 1,000 of its staff at Heathrow Airport last week. The airline is also investigating whether any staff were bullied or intimidated into walking out or staying out.
Groups of baggage handlers, cargo workers and bus drivers staged a wildcat strike last Thursday, causing the cancellation of more than 700 flights and severe disruption for around 100,000 passengers.
The stoppage - described by Sir Rod Eddington, British Airways’ chief executive, as “outrageous” - was prompted by the dismissals of 670 staff by the flight catering company, Gate Gourmet. A special “Focus on Fact” investigation line has been set up to enable British Airways staff to speak to a third party if they wish to discuss any matters of concern surrounding the decision to leave their work positions. Further, staff who did not take part in the unofficial action but who saw anything that that they consider relevant to the investigation are also being encouraged to call the “Focus on Fact” line. British Airways said that the phone line will operate in complete confidence and callers’ names will only be disclosed to the airline with the caller’s consent.
In an open letter to staff, Sir Rod described the walk-out as “a body blow that defies belief”. He went on, “Never before have we had to cancel the entire operation at our worldwide base.
“Those who took unofficial industrial action at British Airways acted in an unlawful way. As a result, they will not be paid for the time they were unlawfully absent from work.
“I have also launched a full investigation into the circumstances that brought about this unofficial and outrageous stoppage so that further appropriate action can be taken.”
He said the stoppage had put the airline under considerable and unnecessary pressure. It is too early to say what the long-term implications of the industrial action might be.