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British Airways strike talks to end on Tuesday

Crucial talks aimed at averting strikes by British Airways cabin crew are set to end on Tuesday, with just days left to reach a deal before industrial action is called.

Officials from Unite have been embroiled in negotiations with the airline for months in a bid to resolve a bitter row over cost-savings,which include cuts in cabin crew.

Union members have voted twice massively in favour of industrial action, but Unite has held off naming strike dates, preferring to continue with negotiations, which have been held under the auspices of the TUC.

The TUC said in a statement yesterday: “Extensive talks have been taking place over the last seven weeks under the chairmanship of TUC general secretary Brendan Barber in an attempt to resolve the current dispute between British Airways and Unite cabin crew.

“On the initiative of Brendan Barber, both Unite and British Airways have now committed to the objective of completing these negotiations by close of play on Tuesday, March 9 to determine whether or not a mutually acceptable settlement can be achieved.”

No formal document has been put forward by the union side even though Unite has been stressing its willingness to achieve savings.

The union offered a 2.6% pay cut last year, and it is understood there have been suggestions that could rise to 3.4%, followed by a two-year pay freeze, under moves to save tens of millions of pounds.

BA has reduced the number of cabin crew on flights under cost-saving measures and chief executive Willie Walsh made it clear this week that the changes would not be reversed.

The union has until March 15 to announce industrial action, and will have to give seven days' notice of any strikes, although it has ruled out any stoppages over Easter.

BA said this week it had 1,000 volunteer staff ready to work as cabin crew in the coming weeks if a strike goes ahead.

Mr Walsh also revealed BA will hire 23 fully crewed planes from charter companies to help run flights from Heathrow in the event of industrial action.

Mr Walsh said he did not want a strike to go ahead, adding that he was willing to talk to unions about any concerns cabin crew workers had raised, but he stressed changes made to onboard crew members would not be reversed.

Flights from London's City airport, including long-haul services to New York, would operate normally in the event of a strike, while 70% of cabin crew would work at Gatwick, meaning all long haul and 50% of short haul flights would not be affected, he said.

No specific details were given about flights from Heathrow if a strike goes ahead, but Mr Walsh said a “substantial” number of long and short-haul flights would still operate.

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