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BA in winter of discontent

BRITISH AIRWAYS (BA) is facing hundreds of thousands of pounds of losses after its cabin crew voted overwhelmingly in favour of a 12-day strike, threatening to paralyse the airline over the peak Christmas and New Year period.

A bitter row over jobs, pay and working conditions escalated yesterday, when more than 12,000 BA members of the Unite union voted nine to one for the walk-out, which will start on 22 December and will run until 2 January. Eighty per cent of members turned out to vote.

Chief executive Willie Walsh slammed the strikes, which are estimated to cost the airline around £50m a day, or as much as £300m for the full 12 days.

Walsh called the move “senseless”, and added that the union “must understand that there can be no return to the old, inefficient ways if [BA] wants to ensure long-term survival in the interests of our customers, shareholders and all our staff”.

The union is up in arms over BA’s move to slash the number of cabin crew on both longhaul and shorthaul flights, as part of a massive restructuring aimed at saving more than £100m. Unite has also attacked the airline’s plans to freeze pay for current staff and hire future staff at a lower rate of pay.

Len McCluskey, assistant general secretary of Unite, said: “We have taken this decision to disrupt passengers and customers over the Christmas period with a heavy heart.”

BA reported record losses of £401m last year, and has indicated it will lose at least as much again this year.

News of the strike came just hours after BA announced that its pension fund deficit had ballooned to £3.7bn. BA also announced head of investments and alliances Roger Maynard would step down as chairman of the pension trustees.