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British Airways cargo workers have suspended a second round of strikes after securing a deal that stopped the company's fire and rehire plans, reports Chris Neville

Unite announced yesterday that their members working in cargo handling at Heathrow Airport had decided to call off their strike action after a deal was agreed with their employer, British Airways.

Around 840 workers in cargo handling have been striking against BA's plans to fire and rehire them on inferior terms which would have seen some of them losing up to 24% of their pay.

Unlike some other workers at the airport, the cargo handlers have worked throughout the pandemic, providing an essential service bringing goods into the UK. The initial strike action, backed by a huge 98% of members, started on Christmas day and lasted until the 2nd of January, and proved highly disruptive to the airport's operations. A further nine days of strikes planned from last Friday were suspended to consider the offer put to the workers.

Unite is reporting that the deal includes assurances that this will be the end of fire and rehire threats from BA. The deal also includes no compulsory redundancies and a pay rise for a significant proportion of staff.

The Unite press release raised some important points around the worrying prevalence of employers using Section 188 to fire and rehire their workers during the coronavirus crisis:

"Fire and rehire is proving to be the present day go to weapon of the worst type of employers. Workers up and down our nations in many instances are being forced to pay for the Covid crisis with reduced terms and conditions."

The cargo handlers at Heathrow were backed into a corner by a huge, multi-billion pound company seeking to push losses onto its workers. By taking strike action in such a critical department of the airport, they were able to strike back and give BA a bloody nose. As a result, they can now celebrate a victory an unscrupulous employer will be wary about picking battles with them again in the future.

This is an important victory against fire and rehire practices which are currently being used against British Gas and Go North West workers at the moment. Fighting back is the best way to stop the employers trying to exploit Covid to worsen their employees' pay and conditions.

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