New strike for British Airways?

British Airways’ cabin crew are to
organise a new strike ballot, said their union, UNITE.

Talks between BA and the union
deadlocked last week after the airline’s management and union representatives
failed to secure an agreement concerning planned changes to the workload and
reduced staffing of long-haul flights.

A previous ten-day strike which was
scheduled to take place over the Christmas period would have caused massive disruption
to holiday travellers was only averted by high court intervention.

The judge granted the injunction to
the airline, ruling that a previous strike ballot was unlawful as it had
included the votes of Unite members who were no longer employed by British


The carrier has already moved to
try and minimise any potential industrial action. Willie Walsh, chief executive
of BA, sent out a letter to ground staff and baggage handlers that asked them
to re-train as cabin crew.

“I am asking for volunteers to back
BA by training to work alongside cabin crew who choose not to support a strike,
so we are ready to keep our customers flying as much as we possibly can if this
strike goes ahead,” he said.

Joint General Secretary of the
Unite union, Tony Woodley, said that such a move was unthinkable.

“It is inconceivable that BA should
even be thinking of running its airline – the national carrier – with scab
labour who have had only minimum training,”

Unite represent 12,000 of British
Airways’ 13,000 cabin crew. Their own injunction against BA deals with staffing
cuts and claims that the airline imposed changes unilaterally and without consultation.
A hearing is scheduled in the High Court on 1 February on that matter.

Any strike action is likely to be
over Easter, but an early March walk-out is also a possibility.