BA set for union pension showdown

16-11-2006

BA set for union pension showdown
British Airways (BA) is due to meet with trade union representatives today in an attempt to try and reach agreement over how to tackle the airline's £2.1 billion pensions deficit.

In a statement the company said that it was keen to reach a "common understanding" with unions over plans to boost the value of its pensions scheme in return for staff accepting "future benefit changes".

BA said trustees of its new airways pension scheme (Naps) had already agreed in principle to a ten-year funding plan to address the deficit, with the airline pledging to increase its planned one-off cash injection into the scheme from £500 million to £800 million.

The company has also offered to annually pay up to £50 million into the scheme over the next three years, providing that its year end cash balances remain above £1.8 billion and dependent upon its workers accepting pension benefit reductions.

BA said that the proposed benefit changes including raising the normal retirement age for its staff to 65, the introduction of a lower accrual rate and inflation capped pensionable pay increases.

However in a sign that an agreement over the plans may prove elusive, Ed Blissett, national officer of the GMB union for BA staff, told the Times newspaper that it might ballot its members over a strike if the airline did not alter the proposals.

"If we don't get movement from the company on their stated position, then it will clearly make it extremely difficult for us to do anything but go to a ballot of our members," Mr Blissett said.

Meanwhile, Brian Boyd, regional officer for Amicus said yesterday that the union would continue to press BA for "improvements to their proposals" until an agreement could be reached.

Despite apparent union dissatisfaction with the proposals put on the table by BA, the airline's chief financial officer Keith Williams has yesterday that its plan was the "right way forward for Naps, our staff and for the company".

"The £800 million cash payment into Naps is a very significant injection into the fund relative to the company‚Äôs market capitalization," said Mr Williams in a statement.

"Together with the benefits changes, more than half the deficit will be tackled immediately," he added.


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