One week after planning a massive walkout–but having it forestalled by British courts–British Airways cabin crews are starting their planned 5-day striking. The BBC has the story:
The action is part of a dispute over jobs and pay between BA and the Unite union. BA has accused union leaders of failing to take up an offer of further talks. The airline said it was disappointed Unite had resorted to “negotiation through the media.”
The Unite union is demanding the restoration of travel concessions to staff who took part in the last series of stoppages in March.
Unite’s joint general secretary Tony Woodley told the BBC that the strike would have been suspended if those perks had been reinstated. But BA said it had already agreed to do so once its deal was accepted in full. Mr Woodley also accused BA boss Willie Walsh of wanting “regime change” at Bassa, the Unite branch representing crew. Talks were brought to an abrupt end on Saturday evening when left-wing protesters gatecrashed the venue where negotiations were being held.
On Sunday, BA issued a statement calling on Mr Woodley to call off the strike and return to the negotiating table. “We had agreed to a request from [conciliation service] Acas to meet this afternoon and are surprised that Unite did not take advantage of this,” it said. “We have already offered to reinstate travel concessions to cabin crew once all elements of our offer have been implemented. “Of more concern to us is Tony Woodley’s comment to the media that he wants to revisit certain proposals in our offer, when previously he had indicated that these were agreed.” The statement went on to again blame Bassa for the failure to reach an agreement.
BA is still operating about 60% of flights, according to the BBC. Unite has two more walkouts planned, one starting May 30, the next starting June 5.
Because of the strikes and this year’s Iceland eruptions, BA has posted its biggest annual loss ever. As a fan of the airline, I hope that it can create a workable business model without shedding the perks–like a polite, responsive cabin crew–that differentiate it from other carriers.