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Q & A : WHERE HAVE THE STRIKE THREATS COME FROM?

Q. WHAT ARE THE UNIONS OPPOSING?
A. On Tuesday, British Airways announced it was cutting 1,700 jobs and was introducing a two-year pay freeze for cabin crew as it looks to cut costs in the downturn. It also said it would recruit new staff on different terms and conditions to current employees. Unite has denounced the airline’s “attempt to impose significant contractual changes” on its 14,000 cabin crew employees, by introducing what it called a “second tier work force” on poorer pay and conditions.

Q. WHY IS BRITISH AIRWAYS CUTTING COSTS?
A. BA recorded record losses in the year to the end of March. It posted a £401m loss – its biggest loss since privatisation in 1987. Earlier in September, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) put up its forecast for losses across the whole industry to $11bn (£6.9bn). BA has been in talks with its unions since the start of the year, and asked employees to volunteer to work for free for one month, to take unpaid leave or to work part-time. Chief executive Willie Walsh and Keith Williams, the finance officer, both worked unpaid in July.

Q. HOW LIKELY ARE STRIKES OVER CHRISTMAS?
A. In an email to BA staff, Unite said “you can rest assured it won’t be the last job cuts,” but BA insist workers volunteered for redundancy. Douglas McNeill at Astaire Securities says strikes are unlikely. “BA’s terms give cabin crew the option to keep their jobs, and give pay cuts to people they’ve never met. It’s not likely to incite a strike,”?he said.