British Airways faces a fresh strike tomorrow at its Heathrow cargo facility

Unite union members are opposing a “fire and rehire” contract strategy the airline is pursuing.

The cargo workers have voted for a nine-day discontinuous strike over a proposal for new contracts that, claims the union, will see workers lose between £6,000 and £8,000 a year.

The union also took industrial action over the Christmas holidays, which it said disrupted 95% of BA’s cargo loads at Heathrow.

While BA is said to have reached agreement with staff in all other sectors of its business, it has yet to settle with the cargo workforce.

Unite claimed the carrier was “counting on these last hard months of the pandemic being enough to force its cargo workers to accept the company’s attacks on their pay and conditions”.

Assistant general secretary Howard Becket said: “Our members’ anger has been heightened by the fact that throughout the coronavirus crisis they have ensured BA’s cargo division remained undisrupted. Thanks to their dedication it is the only part of the company’s operations that has done so.”

The strikes will take place every other night and every other day, from 2am on 22 January until 2am on 8 February.

However, one forwarder noted that over Christmas, BA’s handling actually improved. He said: “It seemed – for us anyway – more efficient”. He added that BA had moved operations to BA Regional Cargo, which is 60% owned by handler WFS.

“Some cargo also went through the express handling side,” said the forwarder, adding that British Airways was an important carrier for UK shippers at the moment.

“We are trying not to go through the EU, and with about 40 countries banning flights to the UK, BA is becoming really quite useful. Virgin Atlantic isn’t a strategic carrier for us. The problem is for maindeck we need to go to continental Europe.”

IAG, owner of British Airways, said in a statement to The Loadstar: “This planned industrial action by Unite helps no one and comes at a time when IAG Cargo is transporting critical supplies around the world and the aviation industry has been hit hard by the global pandemic.

“Our proposal would see around half of cargo workers’ salaries rise, with no one else taking more than a 10% pay cut. We want to resolve this dispute and urge the union to work with us to reach a resolution.”

However, the carrier did not say how it intended to minimise disruption for customers.

Another source said he was not surprised by the airline’s proposed new contracts for cargo workers, despite the fact that cargo is a key source of revenue at the moment.

“Lots of companies are seeing an opportunity to go after contract terms and conditions, even in crucial industries, as it will increase profit margins.”

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