LONDON (August 1, 2009) – Unite, the UK’s biggest trade union, which represents more than 75,000 workers in the aviation industry and some 25,000 within British Airways (BA) and Iberia, today took a cautious approach to the announcement that they are in discussions to merge.

Steve Turner, Unite National secretary said, “Unite will be working closely with Spanish trade union colleagues – strong bilateral relations already exist with the CC.OO – and an urgent meeting is already being scheduled to ensure workers’ interests are protected as these companies inevitably seek greater efficiencies and cost savings, as well as the opening up of markets in the wake a successful merger.

“Any merger must provide for increased job security, as well as protected terms and conditions for thousands of dedicated, professional employees, and we will be seeking clear assurances from both BA and Iberia on these matters, as well as the future of their operations. We will be seeking specific safeguards in respect of any potential opportunity for BA to utilize non UK-based cabin crew, as well as protections for workers in customer service and ground-handling operations.”

Brian Boyd Unite National Officer added, “This comes on the back of other merger consultations that the union has been involved with. Consolidation within the sector has brought about changes in working practices and terms and conditions of employment for thousands of airline employees. Thomas Cook / My Travel, First Choice / Thomsonfly, and Easyjet / GB Airways are some of the companies that Unite has had extensive discussions with in relation to business consolidation. We are also well aware of the effect that the cost of fuel which sits at US$123 a barrel has had on the industry. Continued consolidation within the sector is inevitable.

“However, Unite members have experienced the often negative effect consolidation has on their terms and conditions of employment. Therefore, although the merger of BA with Iberia could be seen as a positive development within the industry, we are mindful of the long-term impact it may have on our members’ jobs and earnings. BA has a proud record unlike other UK carriers of keeping its fleet maintenance in-house and Unite has supported this position for many years. We would be opposed to any cost-cutting which results in the outsourcing of this strategically important work.”