A WAR of words broke out between British Airways (BA) and trade union Unite after negotiations between the two fell apart, signalling that BA’s customers will face up to 15 days of disruptions.
Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley called on BA late yesterday to drop the withdrawal of full travel perks for striking cabin crew and said the union would cancel the strike if the airline met its wishes.
“As a sign of good faith, I am calling on Willie Walsh to reinstate our people’s travel…and this union will call off [tomorrow’s] strike,” said Woodley.
BA struck out against Woodley’s comments and said it was disappointed that he “has taken to negotiation through the media rather than through Acas”.
It blamed the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA), the Unite branch representing the crew, for not being serious in attempting to come to an agreement.
Talks between the two were severely disrupted over the weekend when a group of protestors stormed into the meeting and broke up talks.
Cabin crew were set to walk off the job from midnight last night, affecting BA flights from Heathrow.
Q&A: BA STRIKE: THE LATEST
Q. WHAT CHANGED OVER THE WEEKEND?
A. During negotiations at conciliation service Acas, BA and Unite said they were very close to reaching an agreement when talks were interrupted by the Socialist Workers party. The two sides had been negotiating two points: the reinstatement of staff travel perks and the move by the airline to take disciplinary action against staff. It is understood that progress had been made over the latter point before the talks were disrupted.
Q. WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW?
A. BA and Unite remain at odds over the removal of travel perks for staff who walked off the job during the last seven-day strike. BA had agreed to partially reinstate the perks, which see crew get a 90 per cent discount on flights, but at a similar level as new recruits who don’t receive the same priority as senior staff when on standby for flights. Unite has argued against this proposal and called on chief executive Willie Walsh to back down so they can call the strikes off.
Q. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR TRAVEL?
A. Flights to and from Heathrow will be affected. BA has already put its contingency plan into place, which means the airline will operate 60 per cent of long haul and 50 per cent of short haul flights from the airport. The airline has said that it will focus on flying tens of thousands of customers during the strike period. Flights to and from Gatwick and London City airports will operate as normal.
Q. HOW LONG WILL THE STRIKE LAST?
A. Unite will start the first of three five day walkouts this morning. This current strike period will last until Friday, 28 May. The next strike period is set to start on 30 May and last until 4 June, while the last and final strike period will start on 5 June and last until 9 June. The strike will run through the half-term travel period as well as the start of travel for the World Cup in South Africa. The strike dates could change if the parties finally manage to reach an agreement.