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It’s British Airways’ centenary year this year and among the various promotions, nostalgic revivals of old liveries and new commercials the airline is also unveiling a new uniform for its cabin crews….but the cabin crews aren’t happy.
It was back in September last year that British Airways announced that Ozwald Boateng would be designing the new uniforms for British Airways and that he (and his team) would be “working closely with the airline’s employees throughout the development process, from shadowing them to understand their roles and how the uniforms need to perform, to design, testing and final delivery“.
Well, there’s been a breakdown in communications somewhere because, with the new uniforms expected any day now, one of the unions representing the British Airways crews has written an open letter to Alex Cruz complaining about, amongst other things, the lack of consultation on the new uniform and issues with the current uniform (especially from the point of view of female members of cabin crew).
Here’s the full text:
At first I thought the letter was complaining about the new uniform but, after having read through the text a number of times, there appear to be three main issues:
- The current female cabin crew uniform is unacceptable (from a modesty standpoint)
- The current dress requirements for female members of BA cabin crew are considered outdated and sexist.
- The lack of consultation with regards to the new Ozwald Boateng uniforms has left crew members concerned that these issues are not about to go away anytime soon.
I have absolutely no idea how much or how little consultation there has been with the BA crews over their new uniforms but, in an age where airlines like Virgin Atlantic are removing the requirements for female cabin crew members to wear makeup, it’s surprising that BA doesn’t appear to have considered the broader issues surrounding its crews’ uniforms and dress requirements.
Firstly, BA must have known about the transparency issue with its current uniforms so, at the very least, you would have thought the airline would make a show of making sure the crews are happy with whatever will be replacing the offending items of clothing – it would cost them nothing to do so and would head off issues like the one it’s facing right now.
Secondly, although I think the female members of BA cabin crews look great in the hats they’re required to wear, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that asking them to wear hats when male members of cabin crew don’t have to is going to be pretty contentious.
Asking a female member of staff to wear an item of clothing that a male member of cabin crew could also be asked to wear (but isn’t) is asking for trouble….and it shows a worrying lack of foresight on the part of BA that no one at Waterside thought this could be an issue.
Having said all of that I don’t think that Unite’s letter is on solid ground with all of its gripes.
The letter mentions that BA’s regulations require that “a woman should have to ask a senior crew member (often a man) for permission to remove her jacket if overheated” but it doesn’t go on to mention if there is a similar requirement of male cabin crew…and that’s quite an important thing to know.
If this rule really exists and is only in place for female members of cabin crew I’m shocked that it’s still in place. If it’s a rule that applies equally to male and female members of cabin crew then the way Unite has framed its issue is disingenuous.
Unite appears to be suggesting that this is another example of sexism in the workplace at British Airways but, where in other parts of the letter it makes it clear what the different requirements are for male and female members of cabin crew, here it’s noticeably quiet….and I can’t help but wonder why.
Overall this appears to be a very silly misstep on the part of BA and the airline is probably lucky that Unite drew the line at uniforms and didn’t also open up the debate on the requirement of female members of cabin crew to wear makeup.
The airline and it’s employees don’t exactly have the best of working relationships so you’d think that management would be keen to take the easy wins when it’s faced with them….and making sure crews are happy with something as simple as the clothes they’re expected to wear is a very easy win indeed.
When management can’t see the easy wins staring it in the face you have to wonder just how well it will handle the tougher situations which are usually just around the corner.
(If any members of BA cabin crew are reading this I’d love it if you’d let me know the facts as you see them in the comments section below. Anyone from management is welcome to comment too)