Where next for British Airways?

Where next for British Airways?

Andy Cook, CEO of employee relations advisory firm, Marshall-James Global Solutions has been commenting widely on the BA vs. UNITE story with Bloomberg, BBC News, ITN and various other broadcasting stations. If you would like to speak with Andy regarding the industrial relations angle please call Parm Evans on 07501 462045.

London, 25th March 2010 - As the second wave of Industrial Action planned by the Unite members of BA Cabin Crew is due to start on Saturday 27th March for four days, a resolution still seems a long way off.

Andy Cook, Chief Executive of Marshall-James, the specialist employee relations firm comments: “At some point, this dispute will have to be solved. However, it is looking difficult to see where the common ground is going to come from, particularly given the personalisation by the Union against BA Management. Both sides are claiming a victory in terms of the numbers who have stayed away or turned up for work and the number or services that have run”.

“We will never really know the true picture but one thing is for sure, at the heart of this are passengers who cannot take or complete their journeys and a large group of airport and BA employees who, whilst not on strike, will be directly affected by what is happening. BA claim they have no choice but to reduce costs and those reductions can only come from its payroll. The acute need to cut costs has now become critical for the airline’s long term viability”.

“The pension fund deficit, volatile fuel costs, a reduction in premium passengers and competitor’s ability to operate more cost effectively all add to a bleak financial picture. If you put into that mix a group of employees who are paid way in excess of equivalents on rival carriers and who are protected by restrictive practices making flexibility even more expensive, then it is easy to understand the dilemma”.


“An important factor in all of this is that BA cannot afford to take their foot of the gas. Previous management regimes have not tackled this issue as times had been good and the money was coming in, on top of which they realised the extent of the union’s muscle, which is what we are now seeing.

“Therefore, it was easier not to confront the cabin crew in those good times. That is not the case anymore and the current management has to deal with the crisis and if they do not get what they need from this dispute, then they know they will be back here in 12, 24 or 36 months time. I always advise clients that the best time to make change is when things are going well”.

“The imminent budget and cap on public spending, particularly in the area of public sector pay, will cause further industrial unrest. The PCS union is striking over changes to civil servants redundancy payments which are generous in comparison to a majority of private sector payments. The government wants to reduce payments to civil servants on redundancy so it is not so expensive to make headcount reductions. For most of us, the proposed reduced payments will still seem generous, but the union and its members want to protect the current levels. Network Rail is facing similar difficulties”.