British Airways’ cabin crew has voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of industrial action, the latest move in a long-running dispute over airline restructuring, pay and working conditions.
The Unite union, which represents more than 30,000 members of staff at BA, announced today (February 22) that 80.7 per cent of those who voted did so in favour of striking.
No date for the proposed action has yet been given, but in a press conference today Unite ruled out the Easter holiday period.
This is a softening in Unite’s stance from last year when it appeared ready to disrupt travel plans over the busy Christmas period. This first strike was ruled illegal by the High Court, prompting Unite to announce a fresh ballot (see online news December 17).
Unite assistant general secretary Len McCluskey offered a glimmer of hope today however, with the news that talks are set to continue in earnest.
McCluskey said: “The only way forward for this airline is if all parties can negotiate a solution to the issues before us. In recent weeks we have been in serious discussion with BA. We sincerely hope that the continued strength of the vote by crew will give BA pause for thought.
“Meaningful negotiations are continuing at the TUC and bringing them to a successful conclusion is the only way to resolve this dispute. That is why we are not announcing dates for industrial action at this stage.”
In a statement BA said today’s ballot results were “very disappointing” and branded any industrial action “completely unjustified.”
“In the weeks before and during the ballot period, Unite claimed that we had breached individual crew members’ contracts by making modest changes to onboard crew numbers on flights from Heathrow. We have always said this claim was false, and it was rejected by the High Court three days ago,” BA said.
But BA mirrored McCluskey’s sentiments of hope, saying that it believed “some progress” had been made in recent talks between it and Unite, “under the auspices of the TUC”.
“We reiterate our wish to resolve the issues between us in the interests of our customers and all our staff. However, we will not allow Unite to ruin this company. Should a strike take place, we will do everything we can to protect our customers’ travel plans as far as possible.”
BA struck a blow against Unite last week when it won a High Court battle over proposed changes to crew contracts, including pay freezes and the reduction of the number of crew onboard long-haul flights (see online news February 19).
Report by Andrew Gough