UNITE dossier on British Airways treatment of suspended cabin crew

British Airways has suspended or disciplined 38 crew members, of which 14 are trade union representatives, during the course of the industrial dispute with Unite.

This dossier outlines the bullying and harassment that is taking place against union members and reps under the management of Willie Walsh.

The effect of this treatment on BA cabin crew has been devastating for these staff and has created an atmosphere of fear among the cabin crew community. Some are now on anti-depressants and others are simply too unwell to leave their homes.

The cases against many of the suspended staff is at best weak

British Airways has suspended staff for :

receiving and forwarding an alleged list of pilots prepared to undertake strike breaking to friends through their own private emails – three crew.

discussing the mere existence of the list on a union member only forum – two crew.

having a private conversation with a friend which was overheard by a pilot who assumed she was talking about the list of pilots, she was not – one crew member.

expressing dismay to a manager regarding the existence of BA’s graffiti board at Waterside, where staff were encouraged to offer support to the company, on which was written “cabin crew scum” – one cabin crew member disciplined.

One crew member with a thirty-four year clean record asked a ground staff woman checking her suitcase in, in a light and jovial manner, if she was thinking of training as cabin crew.

Management intimidation

Unite is appalled by the manner in which staff were told of their suspension – some by email, some were called on their emergency contacts. Some were met by managers on landing and accompanied from the aircraft. Others were marched out of briefings or met by managers when they arrived for work. One pregnant crew member on bed rest in danger of losing her baby was suspended by letter as was another crew member who was recovering from surgery.

In all cases, the decision to suspend had already been taken. All of the staff were suspended on allegations of bullying and harassment, some also had charges of contravening data protection levelled at them. All had their IDs taken from them and were accompanied from the premises. The frequency and speed with which these disciplinaries have been conducted has been unprecedented, with crew being contacted over a dozen times in a single day.

There are many more examples of aggressive management style of BA management. For instance union reps responsible for the union crew forum website have been contacted by management demanding that they provide them with the names of crew writing under pseudonyms.

A motorcycle courier was sent to the home of the union’s branch secretary at 9pm with a 45 page legal document demanding he provide BA with the names of 32 crew writing under pseudonyms on the union forum website.

The Consequences

Several of the suspended cabin crew have been left extremely unwell as a result of their treatment by management, a number of staff have been medically signed off with stress and depression. One female crew member has been admitted to an urgent treatment centre because of the deterioration of her mental health. One is under the care of a psychiatrist. Several staff have letters from their GPs clearly stating that they are unable to attend a meeting with the company and in some cases should not be contacted at all.

In every case British Airways Health Services occupational therapists have overridden the GPs advice. Despite crew being highly distressed and in some cases hysterical on the telephone, BA has passed every single one fit to attend hearings.

One crew member, unable to come in for a disciplinary hearing because she was caring for a seriously ill child was instructed to bring the child with her. Management did not go through the normal disciplinary process.

British Airways’ conduct raises serious questions. The airline has a clear policy on bullying and harassment but when dealing with its own staff has completely ignored its own policy.

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