Union urges BA board to intervene

The Unite union
is appealing to the board of British Airways to try and resolve the
increasingly bitter dispute between the airline and its cabin crew.

Joint
general secretary Tony Woodley wrote in a letter to union members that he would
ask the board to “take matters in hand and restart negotiations”.

These
talks would aim to avert next weekend’s planned strikes, he said.

Cabin
crew are into the second day of a three-day strike. They also plan to strike
for four days from 27 March.

Commentators
suggested that Unite’s appeal would have little effect, as BA’s board would
have given its backing to the airline’s current negotiating position.

Despite
Mr. Woodley’s call for negotiations, the BBC has learned that neither Unite nor
BA has been in touch with the head of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) over the
weekend.

The
TUC had been brokering peace talks between the two sides before the strike
began on Saturday.

In
his letter to union members, Mr. Woodley told crew to “stay strong… BA
must understand that capitulation is not on the menu”.

Unite
has accused BA of intimidating and bullying crew, allegations that BA
“utterly rejects”.

Extra flights

On
the second day of action, both sides of the dispute disagreed about how
effective the strike has been.

Unite
said half of BA’s 250 planes had been grounded on the first day of the
three-day stoppage.

The
union said BA’s Terminal 5 at Heathrow was like a “ghost town” and
argued that the airline’s contingency plans were failing passengers.

But
BA said it had managed not only to fly all those services scheduled during the
strike, but also to reinstate a number of flights as more staff had turned up
to work than expected.

The
airline said it was reinstating eight cancelled long-haul flights from
Heathrow, as well as 18 short-haul services from Heathrow and Gatwick this
weekend.

The
company is advising customers to check the BA website to find out what extra
flights will now be operating.

BA
has been in negotiations with Unite for many months.

Workers
are particularly angry that last November BA reduced the number of crew on
long-haul flights and is introducing a two-year pay freeze from 2010.

The
airline also proposed new contracts with lower pay for fresh recruits.

Unite
says it accepts the need for BA to cut costs but that it was not consulted on
the changes.

BA
suffered a loss before tax of £342m for the nine months to the end of December
2009 and says it needs to cut costs in order to survive.

BUZBASTORY

British Airways is involved in an increasingly hostile dispute with cabin crew.
Photo: Photo: File
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