Cabin crew belonging to the Unite workers’ union are expected to meet today (March 11) to discuss possible strike dates, after negotiations between it and British Airways broke down.
The TUC has been overseeing weeks of talks, which centre around proposed airline restructuring and cuts in staffing costs, with BA aiming to save at least £62 million.
Unite had hoped BA would accept its own cost-cutting package yesterday, but the deal was rejected last night resulting in a break-down in discussions.
In a statement Brendan Barber, TUC’s general secretary, said: “Despite a prolonged period of negotiations it has not been possible to reach agreement between BA and Unite.
“Both parties will be reflecting on the position and the TUC will be keeping in touch but at this stage no further negotiations are planned.”
Unite is expected to meet later today to discuss strike dates, which must be announced by March 15 according to the union’s mandate, and give at last seven days notice by law.
A strike cannot start any later than 28 days after crew voted in favour of action on last month (see online news February 22), and with the busy Easter holiday already ruled out, a strike is most likely to begin between March 18 and 22.
Willie Walsh, BA’s CEO, has said that a strike “will not ground British Airways”. It is known that the airline has been training staff to fill in for cabin crew on some flights, just one of a number of contingency measures.
BA is also thought to have secured a number of wet leasing agreements, where aircraft from other airlines, including their cabin crew, operate BA services. Walsh hinted at the use of chartered aircraft from “a number of UK and European-based airlines.”
“We have also arranged to secure seats from other carriers, so thousands more of you can reach your chosen destinations,” he said.
Although Walsh could not confirm exact scheduling until Unite’s next move is known, he did confirm plans to operate all flights from London City Airport, including its New York JFK service, and all long haul flights from Gatwick.
Walsh added that from Heathrow “a substantial proportion” of long haul flights, and a “good number” of short haul, would operate over the strike period.
As for BA Cityflyer, and BA’s codeshare and franchise flights, Walsh said these would “operate as normal”.
Last month cabin crew belonging to Unite voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of stike action, the result of a second ballot. The first ballot, which also resulted in a ‘yes’ to strike action, was ruled illegal by the High Court (see online news December 17).
A further blow was struck against Unite when it lost its High Court battle with BA over the proposed staffing cuts (see online news February 19).
Report by Andrew Gough