Saturday 18 November 2017

British Airways passengers face seven days of strikes

David Millward

The travel plans of tens of thousands of British Airways passengers have been thrown into disarray after the union representing 13,500 cabin crew called seven days of strikes.

Unite said the first walk for three days, will take place on March 20 and the second, lasting four, on March 27. At the same time the union will also hold a fresh ballot on proposals presented by the airline.

There will also be fresh industrial action in April, if the cabin crew reject the airline's new proposals.

It expects a result of this new vote by the middle of next week.

The strike follows overwhelming support for a strike in a rerun ballot called by Unite after the British High Court outlawed a 12-day strike which was due to take place over Christmas.

There had been faint hopes that both sides could reach a deal after prolonged talks, chaired by Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary.

But they collapsed earlier this weeks when the airline rejected the union's own cost-cutting proposals, which included a 2.6pc pay cut, saying it fell "significantly short" of the £62.5m (€68.8m) savings it was looking for.

BA, which carries about 70,000 passengers a day in March, says it has contingency plans in place to keep much of its schedule in place.

The airline has trained around 1,000 volunteers who will step into the shoes of the striking cabin crew. It hopes to keep much of its long-haul operation going.

BA has also leased a number of aircraft and crew to bolster its fleet should a strike take place.

British Airways is also facing the threat of a second industrial dispute, this time involving ground staff.

The airline, which is waiting to hear when its 13,500 cabin crew will go on strike, is facing another showdown with the Unite trade union.

It has accused BA of trying to impose new working practices on 4,000 ground staff – the same accusation which triggered the cabin crew dispute.

Unite is threatening to ballot the ground staff – including baggage handlers and workers who prepare the aircraft before it flies – unless the airline withdraws a letter it sent to employees changing their working practices.

The union is on the point of announcing when its cabin crew will walk out, with the first strikes expected to take place before the end of the month.

A full-blown dispute with ground staff is some weeks away, but if agreement cannot be reached, the airline could be hit by a second strike in May.

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