British Airways moved closer to a summer of industrial disruption after the airline’s baggage handlers and check-in staff voted to reject plans for a series of cuts to save the struggling company, The Telegraph is reporting.
The decision, reached during two separate mass meetings of GMB union members working at Heathrow, has increased the risk of a walkout during the height of the summer season, threatening the holiday plans of millions of Britons.
While union leaders are trying to reach agreement with BA, they are coming under pressure from rank and file to call a strike ballot.
British Airways, which lost approximately $652.5 million last year, is demanding a package of cuts including 3,700 job losses, a pay freeze, an overhaul of pay and conditions and the scrapping of "family-friendly" rosters, which are seen as vital by many of the union's female staff.
The GMB, which represents around 7,000 workers has agreed to make cuts including accepting a two-year pay freeze, voluntary redundancies and unpaid leave.
According to Mick Rix, the union's officer handling the negotiations, the union offered a package of economies at the start of the year which, had they been accepted, would have saved the airline more than $48 million. But Willie Walsh, the airline's chief executive, said the cuts were essential if BA was to remain in business.