During 2010 and 2011, Unite was forced to call four strike ballots in opposition to cost-cutting plans
The introduction of the new grade of lower-paid staff was one of the triggers for a wave of strikes at the airline in 2009 and 2010.
In line with predictions by some strikers at the time, concerns have deepened among new crew members over lower-than-expected allowances, pay rates and erratic workloads.
With starting salaries around £12,000 a year, new cabin crew rely heavily on per-hour additional flying allowances and ‘incentive pay’ to reach an average achievable rate of £20,000.
This remains substantially below the pay of ‘Legacy’ [pre-2009] staff and has led to what insiders describe as ‘a cycle of fatigue and low pay’.
As a result, Unite says, many hundreds have joined the union in recent months.
Officials say the prospect of a voluntary recognition agreement brings ‘positive closure’ after one of the most bitterly-fought industrial disputes of the last decade.
Between 2009 and 2011, Unite was forced by anti-union legislation to call four ballots among the same workforce for industrial action in opposition to the plans.
Cabin crew held more than 20 days of strike action during the height of the dispute, when the airline was reported to be losing £7m a day.
Since then, Unite says it has been working hard to build membership among the new crew and to harmonise relationships across the BA workforce.
Following discussions between BA and the union, the airline has agreed to recognise Unite in future for all negotiations on behalf of mixed fleet.
General secretary, Len McCluskey, who has been leading negotiations on behalf of the union, said: “I’m delighted to confirm that Unite will be signing a recognition agreement for BA’s mixed fleet.
“The union and the company are currently working positively together to put the finishing touches on the agreement.
“The discussions have been very constructive and I believe that the final agreement will be a real benefit to BA and to our members working on the mixed fleet.”
British Airways has approximately 12,000 cabin crew employees.
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