British Airways Cabin Crew
March 17, 2010 -
Unite the union that represents the cabin crew of British Airways has
written a letter to Britain’s Transportation Secretary, Lord Adonis
requesting an investigation of British Airways' plans to deploy a
strike-breaking crew. The
union says the minister must take all steps to ensure that the
Unite is calling
on the minister to put two essential questions to the airline.
Firstly, BA must demonstrate to him that they have taken all
steps to ensure that those who are working on the planes have cleared
Secondly, BA must show that strike breaking crews have been vetted in accordance with the security requirements of BA's destination countries, and that these countries have been properly advised of BA's intention to use fast-tracked stand-ins. Unite also wants these assurances to be placed in the public domain so that passengers can be confident that standards have not been compromised.
The union has approached the minister following the failure of Transec,
the government body responsible for transport security, to respond to
Unite's letter of concern sent in January this year when BA first
announced its plans to train strike-breakers.
Unite had asked Transec to check that BA was complying with all
safety and security checks.
Unite's concerns about BA's plans deepened when it emerged that
strike-breaking crew would board as passengers only to present
themselves as crew when the plane was in the air.
On landing, they would then resume passenger status to clear
immigration. It is thought
that this plan would allow the strike-breakers to bypass all working
visa requirements and vetting procedures. Unite says that if this is not
the case, then BA must make that clear to the minister.
Unite also believes that the secretary of state must be assured that
those embassies which issue working visas, such as the US Embassy, have
been fully informed by BA of their intentions, and be satisfied that the
airline is complying with their criteria for crew who pass through their
the full text of the letter sent to Lord Adonis
Dear Secretary of
FOR YOUR URGENT
ATTENTION: British Airways Dispute and Volunteer Cabin Crew
In a bid to
resolve the long-running dispute between BA and its cabin crew, Unite is
doing all in its power to persuade British Airways to re-table the offer
in withdrew last week and to allow our members a voice on their future.
However, Unite has
grave concerns that BA's threat to break any lawful strike by deploying
up to 1000 fast-tracked, under-trained volunteers as crew during a
dispute places not just our national carrier's reputation for quality at
risk, but will jeopardize the UK's reputation as a place where the
standards governing air passenger transport are respected and upheld.
In January this
year, Unite wrote to Transec, the transport security contingencies
directorate, detailing specific concerns we have in relation to the
training and vetting of volunteer crew by BA, set to be deployed this
weekend. To date Unite has had no response from the directorate to this
letter, which in itself is concerning.
This sector is
clearly of national importance, and has rightly been given significant
support by your government.
Given recent developments, Unite is now writing formally to you request
an urgent investigation by your department into the rushing through of
stand-in cabin crew and ask that you take all steps to assure yourself,
the government and the travelling public that, during this dispute,
corners have not been cut in the standards which govern our aviation
Setting aside our
obvious concerns that paying passengers will be in the care of an
under-trained crew, reliant on them for their in-air safety and
well-being, there are two clear issues of concern with the volunteer
programme: first, the compliance of all volunteers with UK security
checks; and secondly, BA's duty to other national governments to comply
with their vetting laws.
the views Ministers may hold on the nature of this dispute, we know that
your first concern is to ensure that the travelling public does not
suffer. Therefore, we are
urging you as Secretary of State for Transport to demand that BA
responds to you urgently on these two principal matters of concern,
giving you total assurance that no corners are being cut with passenger
safety and security in this country or in any of the BA designation
countries. We also urge
that these Reponses are placed in the public domain to encourage wider
What steps has BA taken to comply with all security and record
checks required by those who are to work "airside"?
You will be aware
that last week a potential BA ‘volunteer crew member’ was remanded in
custody on charges relating to an alleged terrorist plot which pivoted
around his role as a ‘volunteer’ crew during any dispute.
You will also be
aware that Criminal Records Checks (CRCs) are conducted on potential
cabin crew but these are only able to identify those who already have a
criminal record on file in the
Has British Airways taken all steps to comply with the visa and
vetting requirements of the national governments of BA destinations?
says that they are able to employ ‘volunteer’ crew on from across the
airline as well as to ‘charter’ crewed aircraft to provide BA services
from leasing companies. Further, it is our understanding that many of
these ‘volunteers’ we be travelling as paying passengers not ‘crew’ and
then changing and working on-board, thereby avoiding working visas where
required and the necessary vetting procedures of other national
governments. If this is the
case, this is clearly a deception of these national governments.
We urge you to clear this matter up urgently.
Many of BA's key
routes are into the
Finally, we have
serious concerns over the training being provided to ‘volunteers’ given
the central role of crew in providing a safe and secure environment
Experienced, professional cabin crew save lives, a fact that has been
proven on many occasions whether in times of aircraft emergency or in
relation to individual passengers suffering a serious ill health
emergency, such as in New York just last week.
‘Volunteer’ crews simply will not have the expertise to deliver
such care, placing the travelling public at serious risk should an
incident occur, and setting a dangerous precedent for tolerating lower
standards which other airlines may seek to follow.
BA's desire to
break a lawful dispute - twice voted for by our members, so strongly do
they feel about their futures - must not lead to the dilution of
long-standing aviation standards. We therefore ask that your Department
urgently reviews the arrangements BA has put in place in respect of the
above matters and takes all necessary steps to give the public
confidence that standards in this important industry will be
I look forward to
your speedy reply.
National Officer –
Civil Air Transport
Copy: Paul Clark MP Aviation Minister, Louise Ellman Chair Transport Select Committee, CAA, FAA
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