Unite warns BA of strikes over summer

UNITE, the union representing British Airways (BA) cabin crew, is preparing a new strike ballot that could see the airline’s operations disrupted during the all-important summer holiday period.

Speaking yesterday at the union’s conference in Manchester, joint general secretary Tony Woodley warned that BA chief executive Willie Walsh’s “hard-man stance” on refusing to reinstate cabin crew travel perks could plunge the airline into a “needless summer of disruption”.

Woodley said that a new ballot could start as early as next week.

He added: “Willie, we all know there is a deal to be done. One that recognises the real commercial needs and problems of your company as well as our members’ legitimate interests. Unite is ready to do that deal.”

It is understood that the ballot period is likely to take up to five weeks and, if it is successful, passengers travelling with the airline in August will be affected by more strikes.

Unite, which has been hauled into court twice by BA within the last 12 months, cannot ballot union members on the same issue twice.

The news came after BA was hit by the start of a second five-day strike period over the weekend when crew walked off the job again, disrupting the bank holiday travel period.

BA has already increased the number of passengers it is flying during the strike period, operating 70 per cent of long haul and 55 per cent of short haul flights from Heathrow.

The final strike period will start on Saturday and continue to the following Wednesday.

BA and Unite both say they are available for talks.