BA strike saga continues

Unite is digging in for a battle of
attrition with British Airways after announcing that it has raised a $1 million
war chest for the cabin crew strike.

Britain’s largest trade union is
raising the fund through an “unprecedented” 2 per cent levy on its
3,000 branches. The news comes as BA confirmed some cabin crew were being
docked nearly two weeks wages for taking part in the walkout, raising fears
among Unite officials that union members will be “starved” into
crossing picket lines if, as expected, the dispute drags on past Easter.

Tony Woodley, the Unite joint
general secretary, said: “This is an unprecedented move and it shows that
Unite is absolutely determined to give our members all the support they deserve
in winning this battle against the BA bullies. We continue to search for a
decent settlement in this dispute but cabin crew are not going to be driven
back to work for lack of resources.”

BA’s chief executive, Willie Walsh,
has denied the airline is bullying cabin crew and says he is keen to find a
negotiated settlement.

The walkout, now in its seventh
day, is adding to a long list of apparently irreconcilable issues between both
sides. BA has stripped all striking cabin crew – more than 2,000 employees – of
staff travel perks and Unite is demanding they be reinstated as a precondition
for any deal. Walsh has refused and union officials are threatening to call
more strikes after 14 April. No peace talks are scheduled, despite heavy lobbying
of both sides by Gordon Brown.

BA has said that the latest wave of
strike action is costing $8.2 million per day, compared with $10 million per
day during the first walkout, which lasted three days. BA said it had mitigated
the cost of the latest strike, which ends at midnight, by operating more than
eight out of 10 long-haul flights.


Official picket lines near Heathrow during the strike by British Airways cabin crew.