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The Two Hundred Million Pound Strike

The 2003 British Airways Walkout


Ed Blissett

This book describes and analyses the 2003 British Airways (BA) Customer Service Agents’ (CSA) 24-hour unofficial strike. It examines the lead up to the dispute, in which negotiations failed to reach an agreement over the launch of BA’s Automatic Time Recording and Integrated Airport Resource Management systems, before focusing on the dispute itself and its eventual resolution.

Central to the book is the question: why did a group of union members, the majority of whom were young women, become so incensed at an imposed change to their working practices that they took unofficial strike action? This they did in the knowledge that they could all have been legally dismissed.

In analysing the strike, the book explores why BA’s management imposed such a controversial change to working practices on the company’s busiest weekend of the year. A decision which, allegedly, cost the company two-hundred-million pounds, tarnished its reputation, and saw numerous senior managers lose their jobs.

How and why the CSAs’ three trade unions (the GMB Union, the Transport and General Workers Union and Amicus) reacted in such different ways to the unofficial strike, and then behaved so differently in the subsequent negotiations, is also central to this study.

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Appendix 4 The 10 April 2006 Swiping in and out, ATR Agreement


In July 2003, agreement was reached for all staff to swipe in and out to record their arrival at and departure from work, with effect from 1 September 2003. Although this has not been consistently applied, all A scale staff at Heathrow will now be expected to use the ATR system.

We have agreed that to assist with familiarity and to address any potential systems/card issues in the early days, this cutover is progressed in two phases as follows:

• From 01 May 2006, all staff will swipe in using ATR

• From 01 June 2006, all staff will be expected to swipe in and out.

Work will take place over the next few weeks to ensure that all passes are in the system and that the system is fully operational.

A key aspect of the T5 transition plan is the introduction of the INFORM allocation system and the Staff Admin system, which replaces ROADS. Key to the successful implementation of these systems is that all staff swipe in and out. Discussions are ongoing between the company and the trade unions in relation to how data generated from ATR is managed in the future. Further communication will follow in due course.

The existing attendance processes, for example, signing in and out, lateness and absence recording and management, remain unchanged. Steve Otterway – Manager Heathrow Customer Services

Rep H* – TGWU

Rep A* – GMB

Rep P* – TGWU...

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