Both` sides in the British Airways cabin crew dispute were invited yesterday to hold fresh talks to avert a series of strikes due to start next week.
Conciliation service Acas said it was making the move because of the escalation of the dispute, which will see a wave of five-day walkouts in a bitter row over jobs, pay and staffing levels.
Acas said: “The current dispute has now been running for several months and is not only affecting the parties but also the travelling public at a time when the industry has been hard-hit by the volcanic ash fallout.
“Acas believe that, given the escalation of this dispute and the widespread impact it will have, it is necessary for us to make this formal public invitation to both sides to attend Acas talks about the issues and to determine what processes may be needed to reach a settlement.
“Acas believe that such discussions must take place urgently and, to that end, will be in touch with both parties to make arrangements about the venue and timing.”
BA said it will be responding positively to the invitation, and union sources indicated that Unite would be willing to attend fresh talks, although time is running out to prevent the first stoppages going ahead.
The strikes are due to be held on May 18-22 inclusive, May 24-28, May 30-June 3 and June 5-9.
The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) wrote to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Vince Cable yesterday asking them to intervene in the dispute, warning that the planned industrial action would threaten jobs.
Balpa warned that the “unprecedented” strikes will “seriously threaten” BA's ability to maintain job security.