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Editor’s Blog: Unite’s war against aviation

Editor’s Blog: Unite’s war against aviation

Another day. Another staggering claim from the Unite union.

Having seemingly lost the support of the public – not to mention its own members – in the ongoing battle against change at British Airways, the trade union has trained its sights on BAA.

Following exhaustive negotiations the union has declared its intention to ballot its 6,000 members in a dispute over pay at the airport operator.

Pictured: Unite protest against BA contract changes

BAA has offered a one per cent pay increase for 2010, as well a further half per cent increase following changes to sickness pay.

The move follows a pay freeze in 2009.

The terms of the settlement are not acceptable to Unite – which has been unable to reach a negotiated deal, prompting a decision to ballot members of potential industrial action.

So far, so good; a trade union exercising its legally enshrined right to protest.


However, reading the small print, not all is as it seems.

In the previous round of negotiations BAA offered staff a bonus on the condition it met its Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) targets.

BAA missed the £1.2 billion target - by three per cent – and is therefore disinclined to offer staff a bonus.

Unite claims staff are entitled to “financial recognition” from BAA, despite a failure to meet the target.

This, it appears, is the crux of the issue, not pay.

BAA is honouring a contract – negotiated by Unite – while also offering a pay rise to employees in 2010, a time when many organisations are cutting staff or reducing pay.

Unite – in a ludicrous position – argues, as BAA came close to meeting its targets, staff should be rewarded regardless.

“BAA missed its earnings target by a tiny three per cent and the company has still refused to give its staff any financial recognition for coming so close,” explained Unite’s national officer for civil aviation, Brendan Gold.

“The union understands the difficulties the airline industry is facing but BAA must realise that these airport workers are struggling to make ends meet.”

But the terms of the deal are plainly on the table, BAA is meeting the terms and still Unite is threatening strike action.

Picking petty squabbles like these effectively undermines the credibility, not only of Unite, but the whole trade union movement.