BA cabin crew start vote on strike action

BRITISH Airways staff began voting yesterday on possible strike action after the flag carrier’s bosses and unions failed to strike a deal on a planned shake-up of working conditions.

The Unite trade union opened a strike ballot for the airline’s cabin crew after talks with the airline failed to secure a deal on changes to working conditions. The ballot closes on 22 February.

The union said it would hold a new ballot after a planned 12-day strike over Christmas was ruled unlawful by the high court last month.

Unite has decided against calling a strike over the busy Easter holiday, but it has not ruled out action sometime after 1 March. The Easter holiday this year falls on the first week of April.

The new strike vote is expected to take about a month and, if the almost 13,000 British Airways cabin crew affiliated to Unite agree to strike, a walkout could go ahead from the beginning of March, Unite said.

“If industrial action receives the required mandate from the members and strike action is made necessary by continuing management intransigence, we will not call such action over the Easter holiday period,” a spokesman said.

BA wants three quarters of its crew to accept pay rises of between two and seven per cent this year, and for 3,000 staff to switch to part-time working, along with a cut in on-board crew numbers from 15 to 14 on long-haul flights from Heathrow.

The airline expressed doubts about the union’s pledge to avoid causing chaos over Easter, saying it would still hit passengers in March.

“It is threatening the travel plans of families and business people from 1 March. Assurances about an unspecified Easter holiday period will be of little comfort to them,” BA said.

Meanwhile, the airline has faced accusations of trying to rush through a “handful” of workers to try to break any strike by cabin crew. Unite said the airline had begun training 216 staff to fill in for strikers.

The airline said it had the support of the Civil Aviation Authority to train other staff to replace cabin crew in the event of a walkout.