Belfast Telegraph

BA crews to vote in strike ballot

By Alan Jones

Another strike ballot of British Airways cabin crew will be held although their leaders are trying “very hard” to reach a settlement with the airline as the final stage of industrial action ends, a union official said today.

Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite, said the sticking point in the long-running row was now a “silly one”, about the removal of travel concessions from those who have taken action.

Union members walked out for the 22nd day today in the long-running dispute that has cost the carrier more than £150m, with further action threatened for the summer unless the deadlock is broken.

The airline's chief executive Willie Walsh has announced cuts in business and first-class fares, pledging to “keep the flag flying” throughout the summer.

Mr Simpson said there had been movement on the original cause of the dispute — cost-cutting — leaving the removal of travel concessions as the sticking point.

“It makes you wonder why British Airways is continuing to make this an issue. We are still trying very hard to get a settlement, but Willie Walsh, having put himself in a corner, is desperate not to settle.

“There will be another ballot and the outcome of that will determine what we do.”

Mr Simpson repeated his belief that Mr Walsh wanted to “break” the union, or achieve “regime change” at the branch that represents cabin crew, Bassa.

The two sides continued to clash over the impact of the strikes, with BA insisting it was running 80% of long-haul flights from Heathrow despite the industrial action, while Unite claimed that BA failed to operate 43% of its reduced schedule yesterday.

Unite said about 60 crew members had now been suspended and eight sacked in recent weeks, mainly for “trivial reasons”, and has accused the airline of a “crackdown” on union members. BA has strongly denied the charge, maintaining it was duty-bound to follow its disciplinary code.

The conciliation service Acas has said it expects a date to be set shortly for peace talks to resume.

A number of Labour MPs have signed a Commons motion expressing “deep concern” that there has been no settlement.

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