Cost-cutting goes into reverse as BA strike-breakers become world's most expensive cabin crew

29 March 2010

Pilots working as cabin crew during the current strike are pocketing an extraordinary £166 per hour – making them the world’s most expensive cabin crew, Unite said today.

The union says that BA has gone to enormous lengths to divert hundreds of pilots from their everyday jobs to work as crew – but with the guarantee that they will still be paid in line with their £120,000 salaries.

In contrast, in a normal working day a BA cabin crew member with five year’s experience would earn only £15,000 or £16 per hour.

But Unite also understands that temporary crew brought back for the dispute and working alongside the big earning pilots are being paid only £11,000 – the very bottom of the BA pay scale – during the dispute. All strike-breaking crew will also receive £100 each way for their journey as an incentive to come to work.

Len McLuskey, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “Far from cutting cabin crew costs, BA is now operating the world’s most expensive crew in a bid to break its far cheaper, world-class workforce.

“Where is the sense in running an ever-creaky contingency operation built on throwing money at £166 an hour pilots pretending to be crew when they have nearly 12,000 fully-trained professionals who should be working? Dividing your workforce like this is madness. It should be parked in the hangar before it does needless and long-term damage to the good working relations between pilots and crew that are critical in aviation.

“Strike breakers – whether they are pilots or other BA colleagues – acting as cabin crew are misguided. Their actions are not solving this crisis, they are helping prolong it – and they should not expect thanks from BA for their troubles because this company will turn on them in due course just as they have turned on the crew. The sooner they get on with doing their own jobs and not crew’s, the quicker this dispute is settled and the better for everyone.”

Unite makes its claims as the current strike enters its third day. Yesterday, Unite released figures showing that 50 percent of rostered crew were on strike. The union estimates that on a normal working day 2100 crew are rostered to work. During the strike, BA has significantly reduced the number of crew rostered to work.

By yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, only 359 crew had reported for duty. This includes 100 International Cabin Crew, who are not on strike. That left BA with 259 crew at work.

A further 331 declared themselves to be on strike and 21 were sick. So, more than 50% of those rostered to work were on strike. This is before the numbers of crew who were not rostered and are also backing the strike are taken into consideration.

Unite believes that yesterday BA was trying to run its service with only around 15% of those cabin crew who should be working normally, leading to significant numbers of cancellations and promoting the airline to run many aircraft “empty” i.e without crew or passengers, including on major routes such as the JFK and Toronto flights.

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