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Absence goes sky-high at BA

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In a last-ditch attempt to avert planned bank holiday strikes and in addition to the 8.5% pay rise offer; BA has thrown in a one-off payment of £1000 for workers who take less than 16 days sick leave between October 2004 and September 2006.

The GMB and T&G unions have rejected the current pay offer in favour of strike action to be held over the busy bank holiday weekend. If the parties fail to agree to a deal holidaymakers face chaos at major airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The airline estimates it carries 100,000 passengers a day at that time.

The UK sickness average is just seven days while BA staff are absent for an average 17 days per year. To combat these soaring sickness rates BA are offering staggered incentive bonuses for those with good attendance records. The airline has proposed the following deal:

• £200 for staff with no more than four days absence between 1 October 2004 and 31 March 2005
• £400 for staff with no more than six days absence between 1 April 2005 and 31 December 2005
• £400 for staff with no more than six days absence between 1 January 2006 and 30 September 2006
• £1000 for staff with no more than 16 days absence between October 2004 and September 2006

Mike Street, British Airways director of customer service and operations, said:

“It is an offer that matches the unions’ claim in return for a reasonable attendance record.

“We believe our staff must have the opportunity to make themselves heard fairly. It defies belief for the unions not to listen properly to their membership on this vital issue.”

T&G however, believe that BA should not link pay to absence rates.

Chief negotiator Brendan Gold said: “Taking strike action is the last resort but the consistent failure by BA to address the issues seriously has led to our people feeling they have no alternative.”

Speaking to HRZone, Ben Willmott of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development commented:

“There is nothing wrong with attendance incentives schemes as long as they are part of a managed and co-ordinated approach to reducing absence levels and are not seen as a solution in themselves.

“One of the challenges of managing attendance incentive schemes is to ensure that they don’t penalise individuals who have genuine health problems and they don’t effectively discriminate against any employee, for example on the basis of disability.”

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Annie Hayes

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