Monday, June 07, 2010

BA - 'stalinist' bosses and safety concerns

Simon Calder writing in The Independent on 29 May 2010

Safety has been one of the issues raised during the long running dispute at British Airways. One union demand was assurances about cabin-crew rosters on new aircraft, to avoid existing staff being obliged to work aboard "an ageing fleet of old, broken, ill-maintained aircraft". Apparently BA flies an older fleet than most carriers, including its low-cost rivals and even Aeroflot.

The article says "Older aircraft are in no sense unsafe, since they are impeccably maintained by BA's engineers." But Professor Martin Upchurch of Middlesex University Business School believes "an embedded culture of bullying and authoritarianism" by the airline's top management could jeopardise safety.

In a report commissioned by Unite and sent to BA's investors, the Professor of International Employment Relations warns:

"The reporting of 'errors' may diminish if staff feel vulnerable and insecure."

"Employing newer, younger staff on lower terms and conditions may not only affect employee commitment (and customer satisfaction) but also have implications for safety when evaluated through 'critical incidents' or 'human error' reporting."

A spokesman for BA said:

"Safety of our customers and crew are our highest priority and we make no compromises. All of our cabin crew are trained to the highest standards and meet all regulatory requirements."

Professor Upchurch also describes the use of disciplinary action against cabin crew as "being reminiscent of the worse [sic] aspects of methods used by Stalinist secret police".

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