British Airways, union resolve issues

British Airways cabin-crew union said it
reached an agreement with management aimed at resolving a dispute over pay,
staffing levels and the treatment of strikers that has bedeviled the carrier
for more than two years.

The Unite union will recommend that members
accept the deal after BA agreed to restore travel perks in full to those who
participated in the walkouts, General Secretary Len McCluskey said today at a
press conference near London’s
Heathrow airport.

British Airways Chief Executive Officer
Keith Williams said in March he aimed to end the dispute after succeeding Willie Walsh, who now runs
parent company International Consolidated Airlines Group SA. The agreement,
which includes a pay raise, enshrines a new working structure that BA says will
slash costs.

“We are delighted to have reached an
agreement which I believe recognizes the rights and dignity of cabin crew as
well as the commercial requirements of the company,” said McCluskey, who was
also new to the talks after becoming Unite’s leader this year. Cabin crew will
be balloted over the next month, he said.

Carrier ‘Pleased’

BA is “very pleased” that the threat of strike action has been
lifted and that the deal acknowledges the permanency of some of the fundamental
changes which prompted the walkouts, it said in a statement. Flight attendants
first voted for action after cuts to the number of staff on its long-haul
flights.

The dispute had been deadlocked since Unite
pulled back from a deal in November after BASSA branch officials pushed for
concessions including full restoration of perks for strikers and binding
arbitration on disciplinary cases, something which has also been granted as
part of today’s deal, Unite said.

After the sides resumed negotiations with
Williams at the helm, the new CEO on April 14 approved a 28-day extension to a
Unite strike mandate that would otherwise have expired the next day, keeping
the union at the table.

Negotiations were concluded “to the
satisfaction of both parties,” according to an e-mail sent to members by BASSA
yesterday. McCluskey said today he’s “very confident” the deal will be approved
by members.

Pay Settlement

As part of the agreement, cabin crew will
receive pay increases of 4 percent this year and 3.5 percent next year,
McCluskey said, derived from an inflation-linked enhancement plus a raise based
on worker productivity.

Workers who were docked wages while
“genuinely” sick during last year’s strikes will also have the sum repaid, and
cabin crew have been promised that they won’t lose out in a transition to a
“mixed fleet” including staff hired at lower rates.

British Airways succeeded in keeping most
flights operating during five strikes spanning 22 days last year by using
volunteer staff and hiring in extra planes and crews.

“BA coped very well during the strike and
this looks like a positive for them,” said Stephen Furlong, an
analyst at Davy Stockbrokers in Dublin with an “underperform” rating on IAG
stock. “This has been such a long-standing dispute and with that uncertainty
going it’s certainly helpful.”

IAG closed 0.04 percent lower at 246.3
pence in London, valuing the company — formed from BA’s merger with Spain’s Iberia in January — at
4.57 billion pounds ($7.44 billion).

BUZBASTORY

British Airways was able to maintain a fraction of its normal flight schedule as members of the cabin crews’ union went on strike.
Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
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