BA cabin crew to ballot on summer of strikes
The bitter British Airways dispute could cause disruption to flights throughout the summer with cabin crew set to be balloted for fresh industrial action, it was warned yesterday.
Tony Woodley, joint leader of Unite, said a new ballot for strikes could be only a week or so away, as union members staged day two of a five-day walkout.
The union said the series of strikes since last March had now cost BA almost £100m (€118m), with eight further days of action planned.
Mr Woodley also revealed that the union had paid out almost £1m (€1.18m) in strike pay, pledging that Unite would not allow the airline to "starve" staff back to work.
He told Unite's annual conference in Manchester the "hard- man" stance of BA chief executive Willie Walsh would plunge the airline into a prolonged and "totally needless" summer of disruption.
A fresh ballot will be needed because the 12-week protective legal period for taking industrial action ends in early June.
Mr Woodley said that if crew were forced to seek a new mandate the blame would lie "firmly" with Mr Walsh.
Unite said it believed a deal on cabin crew costs had already been agreed between both parties, adding that the airline could be restored to full operation in time for the peak summer season if the outstanding row over travel concessions was resolved.
Mr Woodley told the 700 delegates that the dispute could be summed up in one word - bullying:
"Bullying that imposes radical changes on our members without agreement, that has seen other BA employees incited against cabin crew with, to their lasting shame, the collusion of scab pilots, that has meant more than 50 of our brothers and sisters suspended or sacked for the crime of sending a text or posting a remark on Facebook
, that forbids them from talking about their own dispute in public and that victimises trade unionists by branding them second-class employees for life.
"We all know there is a deal to be struck, one that recognises the real commercial needs and problems of the company as well as our members' legitimate interests.
"But we are not and never will be prepared to see our members and our union humiliated, victimised and reduced to ruins, as Willie Walsh seems to say."
Striking cabin crew later attended a fringe meeting, speaking out about a "climate of fear" at BA and saying they were too scared to be identified for fear of being disciplined.