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BA cabin crew ready to accept deal to end strike

British Airways cabin crew signalled the end of their bitter 18-month dispute with the airline yesterday, removing the threat of fresh strikes this summer.

A mass meeting of Unite members voted almost unanimously to put a new deal to a ballot of around 7,000 workers, with a recommendation to accept.

Union leaders said they believe there will be a huge vote in favour when the result is known next month, finally bringing to an end one of the longest-running industrial disputes for years.

More than 1,000 Unite members met in a marquee close to Heathrow Airport to be told that the main areas of dispute had been resolved following weeks of talks between General Secretary Len McCluskey and BA Chief Executive Keith Williams.

Under the agreement, travel concessions removed from cabin crew who took part in 22 days of strikes last year will be restored from July.

Disciplinary action taken against dozens of Unite members will be referred to the conciliation service Acas, ending another sticking point to a peace deal.

Mr McCluskey said a two-year pay rise had also been agreed, giving rises of 4% this year and 3.5% next year, subject to productivity agreements.

BA said it was pleased the threat of industrial action had been removed, adding that the agreed changes will modernise industrial relations.

Mr McCluskey praised the cabin crew for their "determination and solidarity" and also welcomed the efforts of Mr Williams, who took over from Willie Walsh last year following BA's merger with Spanish carrier Iberia.

He said: "We are recommending this deal because we believe it is an honourable settlement. There is a change within the management psyche at BA, driven by the chief executive. If we embrace that, we are confident that the future will be good."

Mr McCluskey, who was loudly applauded by the cabin crew, many wearing their BA uniform, said Unite wanted to help build up the airline's reputation and brand, which he admitted had been damaged by the dispute.

Industrial action would have been called within days if the deal had not been negotiated, it is understood.

"We look forward to working with the company to repair the wounds and to make sure that BA has a strong reputation as an iconic British company, going from strength to strength."

During the hour-long mass meeting, there were loud cheers when Mr McCluskey reminded the cabin crew that Mr Walsh had moved on to run the merged organisation, while the workers had remained.

A BA spokesman said: "On behalf of our customers, we are very pleased the threat of industrial action has been lifted and that we have reached a point where we can put this dispute behind us.

"Our agreement with Unite involves acknowledgement by the union that the cost-saving structural changes (to) cabin crew operations are permanent."