Last ditch effort to avoid BA strike

A three-day strike by British Airways cabin
crew is still planned for this weekend but last-ditch peace talks are continuing
between the airline and union.

BA’s chief executive, Willie Walsh,
met the joint general secretary of the Unite trade union, Tony Woodley, this
morning but they failed to reach an agreement. It is understood that Walsh
submitted a new offer but Woodley raised strong objections. However, Woodley
has returned to the TUC for more talks after discussions with representatives
of Unite’s cabin crew branches, Bassa and Cabin Crew 89.

Walsh and Woodley have been holding
discussions at the headquarters of the TUC in central London. If there is no
breakthrough this afternoon it is likely that the first walkout by BA cabin
crew in 13 years will begin on Saturday.

BA has pledged to fly 65 per cent of
its passengers to their destinations by using a fleet of chartered jets and
1,000 volunteer cabin crew.

Earlier this week, Woodley said
Unite would suspend the strikes if BA put a previous formal offer to the union
back on the table. BA had withdrawn the offer last Friday after Unite set
strike dates for the three-day walkout starting on Saturday, and a further four
days of industrial action starting on 27 March.

Representatives of Bassa had warned
that members were unlikely to accept the offer anyway. It included a three-year
pay deal and the partial repeal of staffing cuts that triggered the dispute.

Walsh had indicated that BA was
unlikely to put the same offer back on the table and would present a tougher
one instead. That appears to have happened this morning, with Walsh claiming
the dispute has already cost BA nearly $46 million that now needs to be
reclaimed through any future agreement.