British Airways prepares for strike

1,000 volunteers will help if cabin crew walk out

British Airways signalled
its readiness for a lengthy cabin crew strike outlining plans to break a
walkout with 1,000 volunteer flight attendants and a temporary fleet of chartered
jets.

Willie Walsh, the chief executive,
told staff BA was “as prepared as we can be” for a strike that could
come as soon as next week if peace talks with the Unite trade union break down.

Walsh said 6,000 staff, about a
quarter of BA’s non-cabin crew workforce, had volunteered to help in the event
of industrial action. BA expects to have 1,000 auxiliary cabin crew, including
role-swapping pilots, ready by next week. Plans are also at an advanced stage
to borrow 23 aircraft, including full crew, from other UK and European
airlines.

“These plans will allow us to
protect our customers’ travel arrangements better than many people imagined
possible in the difficult conditions that a strike by the biggest section of
our workforce is bound to cause,” Walsh said in an email to BA’s
38,000-strong workforce.

BA will operate all its services
from London City airport during the expected strike. It has also claimed that
more than two-thirds of its Gatwick-based crew will work normally, leaving
intact its long-haul schedule from the UK’s second-largest airport.

Unite and its cabin crew branch,
Bassa, have until 15 March to give notice of strike dates, and must stage a
walkout by 22 March, according to trade union legislation.

A union source said
Unite’s main negotiator in talks, its assistant general secretary, Len
McCluskey, would not abandon talks and set strike dates. In a statement,
McCluskey attacked Walsh’s stance. “It is deeply regrettable that BA’s CEO
has chosen to adopt this inflammatory and confrontational stance at a time when
we are engaged in meaningful talks with the company,” he said.

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